Penn wrestling will battle for Keystone State supremacy for the next two seasons, as it was announced Wednesday that the Quakers will face off with Penn State in a home-and-home series through the 2020-2021 season.
The Red and Blue are slated to make the three-hour trip to State College on Dec. 8 this year, with the Big Ten squad returning the favor next year at a date yet to be announced.
Penn State's dynastic status within the collegiate wrestling world is widely respected, so Penn's wrestlers will take on an unmatched caliber of competition. At last year's NCAA Championships, the Nittany Lions took home their fourth consecutive team title and had three individual champions as well.
"We're excited to once again compete against Penn State in dual meets," coach Roger Reina said in a statement. "Our two programs have long had a tremendous respect for each other on and off the mat, and are committed to showcasing high-level collegiate wrestling in the state of Pennsylvania. We've enjoyed hosting Penn State recently at the Keystone Classic and now we get to take our efforts to two historic wrestling venues and test ourselves in dual meet competition. We are aiming big as a program, and there is no bigger test of where we are and where we are headed than stepping on the mat against the program which has won eight of the last nine national championships."
While the teams haven't wrestled a dual meet for a decade, athletes from both sides have faced each other many times during in-season and postseason tournaments. At the Palestra-hosted Keystone Classic last November, then-freshman Anthony Artalona faced Penn State's Jarod Verkleeren in the third-place match at 149 pounds. To the delight of the home fans, the rookie muscled his way to a 4-2 decision.
Both teams were ranked the last time these two sides competed in a dual, back in 2009. In that match, the visiting No. 25 Red and Blue beat the No. 24 Nittany Lions in their own gym by a 20-13 score. Penn was down 13-10 after seven of 10 bouts but rallied and won the final three to come away with the victory.
Over the years, the in-state rivals have met 23 times on the mat, their first encounter having been in 1912. Penn State has dominated the series, winning the first 16 duels and going 20-3 overall, although the Quakers have picked up their level of play in the most recent matchups.
Another factor that could drive momentum in the Red and Blue's favor is the return of Reina at the helm. Having left in 2005 after 20 seasons with the team, Reina came back for the 2017-18 season bringing more than just leadership to the team — he can draw talent to the program from across the country. Between a stronger schedule and the inclusion of higher-caliber recruits, Reina has the potential to bring this team to the next level and is already working toward that goal.
With an opponent as noteworthy as Penn State on the Quakers' schedule for at least the next two years, the team can only stand to improve from facing national-level competition.
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