The Quakers are back on the mat.
Penn wrestling kicked off a new season over the weekend, with the majority of the team making the trip up to East Lansing, Mich. for the Michigan State Open. Overall, the Red and Blue's wrestlers fared well, with 15 of 19 competitors winning at least one match and sophomore Anthony Artalona continuing his winning ways with a second-place finish at 157 pounds.
This early-season tournament was coach Roger Reina’s first chance to get a look at the Quakers’ highly anticipated freshman class against strong competition. Many Big Ten teams participated in the meet, giving the young wrestlers a tough challenge right out of the gate.
Freshman Michael Colaiocco, who was the highest-ranked wrestler in his weight class out of high school, took fourth place in the 125-pound class in the Open division with victories over wrestlers from Illinois, Michigan, and Purdue. Colaiocco barely missed out on an appearance in the finals at 125 pounds with a 3-2 defeat in the semifinals to Brock Hudkins of Indiana.
Just two Penn wrestlers, freshmen Cam Connor and Jesse Quatse, were placed in the Freshman/Sophomore division, and both excelled. After a bye, Quatse won two matches before going down in the final of the 184-pound class by a score of 6-2. Connor was the Quakers’ lone champion in the meet, dominating the 157-pound class.
Another 157-pound wrestler also delivered a strong performance on Saturday, with Artalona wrestling a weight class up from his outstanding freshman year. The sophomore delivered a signature win in the semifinals of the Open division, defeating No. 13 Justin Thomas from Oklahoma by a score of 3-2. An early six-point move proved to be too much to overcome in the final, as Artalona ended up losing, 10-7, to Kendall Coleman from Purdue.
While the Quakers didn’t experience a great deal of success as a team last season, Artalona and fellow sophomore Carmen Ferrante are both coming off NCAA Championships qualifications, and a top-tier recruiting class makes this perhaps the most intriguing and dangerous team in the Ivy League.
With such a young roster, Reina was looking for determination and intensity from his team at Michigan State, not necessarily success as measured by wins and losses. As a group, the Quakers showed impressive mettle against stiff competition.
Additionally, there is a question of where veteran leadership will come from considering how many freshmen and sophomores project to be starters, so Reina expects almost every wrestler on the roster to step up in one way or another as leaders.
The Michigan State Open was a great opportunity for the freshmen to gain experience on the mat in higher pressure situations and for last year’s stars to begin building off their success. Now, the Quakers will have three weeks of practice against each other before hosting the annual Keystone Classic at the Palestra on Nov. 24.