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Sophomore Doug Zapf won both of his matches on Sunday, improving to 6-1 in dual meets on the year.

Credit: Son Nguyen

While most students are easing back into the first week of classes following winter break, Penn wrestling’s version of getting back into the swing of things looked a little different. This weekend, the Quakers opened their Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association competition season with three dual matches between Friday and Sunday.

The end result of the opening weekend left the Quakers with an early loss to Army West Point and a pair of wins over Binghamton and Long Island University.

On Friday, the Quakers (3-4, 2-1 EIWA) headed up to New York to wrestle against Army West Point (7-2, 2-0), which is ranked No. 2 in the conference and No. 17 nationally. For the Quakers, freshmen Michael Colaiocco and Jesse Quatse sat out along with sophomore Anthony Artalona. Colaiocco and Artalona are nationally-ranked, already sitting within the top 10 in the nation in their weight classes.

The lack of star power was felt, however, and Penn would drop its match to the Black Knights, 27-9.

“We had three starters out up against Army, and three starters out today too, so that was a pretty gritty performance, and we’re getting some of the younger guys some more experience with these injuries out," coach Roger Reina said. "Some of the younger guys are stepping in, which is good in the long run."

The first match began on a competitive note, with sophomore Doug Zapf winning by decision at 144 pounds by a score of 7-5. Penn would only win two more of the 10 matches against Army, with the other two victories going to sophomore Carmen Ferrante at 133 pounds and freshman Cole Urbas at 197. Due to Colaiocco's absence, Penn also had to forfeit the 125-pound weight class.

But upon their return to the Palestra, the Quakers returned to their winning ways.

Binghamton (2-7, 1-5) had defeated the Red and Blue in their two previous meetings, but Penn got revenge against the Bearcats on Sunday with a big 31-6 victory.

“Today, this was really important for us," Reina said. "Our first home dual meet in the Palestra: a chance for us to redeem the last two years when Binghamton has beaten us … It’s great to be back here. We’ve been on the road for a long time, and this is our home."

Ferrante finished strong for the Quakers with a near-closeout, 10-1, with 3:20 of riding time. Zapf also swept the competition, winning 19-5 with over three minutes of riding time. 

“We’re in that mid-season lull where we’ve got to pick up our training a little bit in this month of January before we start to prepare for the conference tournament, so I think in these next couple of weeks we’re going to turn it up a bit, and then start to taper it down towards the end," Ferrante said. "For the most part, my [skill] set is still the same, and we’re excited to get into this conference schedule.” 

In the heavier weight classes, Urbas shut out his opponent at 197 pounds and won by technical fall, 16-0, with 3:58 of riding time.

The narrative was much of the same against LIU (2-16, 0-3), with Penn coasting to a 41-3 win.

Kicking off the match at 125 pounds, junior Daniel Planta opened the team scoring with a six-point pin of Brandon Mercado, and the Quakers didn't look back. The Red and Blue totaled four pins and two major decisions en route to the victory, which was all but locked up after five bouts and Penn ahead 26-0.

Wrestling at heavyweight to close the match, sophomore Ben Goldin earned his second win of the day with a 59-second pin of LIU's Lawrence Horl, sending the home bench into a frenzy.

The Quakers will look to ride this momentum into their next pair of EIWA matches on Feb. 1 against Ivy League opponents Brown and Harvard.