Penn wrestling did not disappoint in its opening performance on the Palestra mats.
The Red and Blue faced stiff competition from nine other schools at the annual Keystone Classic, but coach Roger Reina’s crew came away with the overall team title and individual title wins from freshman Michael Colaiocco and sophomore Doug Zapf.
Competing against wrestlers from as nearby as Drexel and as far as Duke, the Quakers held their own across the board, posting 16 total quarterfinalists — 14 of whom were underclassmen — across the 10 weight classes.
Colaiocco was the top seed at 125 pounds, and the highly touted rookie ran through his competition over the day with ease to claim his first collegiate title. Heading into the finals with a pin and a 6-1 win already in the books, Colaiocco earned a 10-2 major decision win over Patrick McCormick of Virginia to earn the first-place finish.
"I was happy with the way I wrestled today," Colaiocco said. "As long as I'm improving from week to week, just focusing on the small things I do every day, I'm going to have a good season."
Wrestling at 133 pounds, sophomore captain Carmen Ferrante came close to replicating Colaiocco’s success. Two convincing early wins were enough to see him into the final, but a late takedown from Virginia’s Louie Hayes meant Ferrante would take second place for the second consecutive year in a tight 3-1 decision.
The third final of the day was the cherry on top for the passionate home crowd, as senior captain A.J. Vindici met sophomore Doug Zapf in an all-Penn affair. Vindici might have had more experience on the collegiate level, but it was the younger wrestler who prevailed on Saturday, as Zapf earned the win by an 8-3 score.
Colaiocco and Zapf's wins meant that the Quakers had multiple champions for the first time since 2015.
"These guys were used to standing on the top of the podium in high school, but in college that's something you have to re-earn," Reina said. "Being on the podium and medaling is great, but there's a special feeling when you stand on the top."
Elsewhere, four other young Quakers — freshmen Jesse Quatse and Cole Urbas and sophomores Grant Aronoff and Anthony Artalona — came ready to impress and all placed in the top four of their respective weight classes.
At 149 pounds, Aronoff picked up two tight wins before being tripped up by top-seeded Jonathan Millner of Appalachian State in the semifinals. His forfeit in the third-place match meant he took fourth in the weight class.
As the top seed at 157 pounds, Artalona was expected to be a key contributor for the Red and Blue on Sunday. He raced through his first three bouts, winning the first two by a combined score of 29-5 and pinning his third opponent.
After losing a narrow 3-2 decision to Appalachian State’s Matt Zovistoski in the semifinals, Artalona would take third place following a 2-1 victory over Parker Kropman of Drexel.
Quatse and Urbas both lit up the mat in their first collegiate home meet, taking fourth at 184 pounds and third at 197, respectively. After losing to eventual champion George Walton of Rider, Quatse rode a 15-0 technical fall win into the third-place match, where he fell 4-2 to Sacred Heart's Kyle Davis.
Perhaps even more than the individual title wins, the Penn collective was the loudest when Urbas closed out the day with a pin in his third-place match. His victory would be enough for the Quakers to clinch the team title, their first since 2010.
"It was really the combined effort of guys up and down the lineup," Reina said. "We put a lot of emphasis on offense and scoring bonus points, and ultimately that's what made the difference in this tournament."
Two years ago, Penn finished seventh of 10 and only had four wrestlers place in their weight classes. Last year, the team came in third. After this year, it's safe to say #TheMovement has arrived.
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