"Go until the whistle."
One of the most common phrases in sports is also the one that can give athletes the most trouble, and it was especially important in Penn wrestling's match against Columbia.
The Quakers hosted the Lions and Cornell in back-to-back dual meets on Saturday to continue Ivy League competition. Despite excellent showings from sophomore Doug Zapf and freshman Michael Colaiocco, the Quakers, missing three starters, suffered consecutive losses on the day. The losses marked the end of Penn's four-match winning streak and dropped them to fourth in the Ivy League.
The Quakers match against Columbia was a back-and-forth battle that featured numerous lead changes leading up to the final match. Zapf got the Quakers started with a decisive 5-2 victory at 141 pounds. Freshman Lucas Revano continued the Quakers’ momentum at 149, winning by a score of 7-3.
After Penn’s first loss at 157, senior Jake Lizak helped the Quakers rebound with a win at 165 pounds. The referee ruled a potential match-winning takedown for Columbia had come after the final buzzer, handing Penn a win and a 9-3 lead in team points.
Sophomore Neil Antrassian led his match at 174 by a considerable margin until the last seconds. A six-point takedown by Columbia gave the Lions a 10-9 win in the match and the momentum.
Columbia continued to build on that performance, winning their next match and taking a 11-9 lead in team points. Freshman Cole Urbas was able to get a takedown a few seconds into overtime for sudden victory at 197, reclaiming the team match lead for Penn.
After wins from Columbia sophomore Danny Conley at 285 and Penn’s Colaiocco at 125, the score going into the final match was 15-14 in favor of Penn. This led to a winner-take-all situation at 133 pounds.
Sophomore Carmen Ferrante put up a tough fight for the first two periods, and the score of the match was tied at 2-2 going into the final frame. After briefly gaining the lead, Ferrante suffered a takedown and was unable to recover, losing the bout 4-3, with Penn losing the overall match by a score of 17-15.
“We felt we were still a good enough team here to beat Columbia, and I think we were,” coach Roger Reina said. “I think [Antrassian and Ferrante] were the two swing matches.”
The Quakers had no time to sulk over the loss, however, as a fresh Cornell squad, riding a 91-match Ivy League winning streak, arrived for the second of the back-to-back dual meets.
Zapf once again led off for the Quakers at 141, and despite dealing with much tougher competition in Cornell senior Noah Baughman, was able to get a takedown in the final 10 seconds to secure a victory for Penn.
“[Baughman] is a really good opponent, and he was really tough to score on,” Zapf said. “I feel like my hand fight all led into that one shot that I got.”
However, Zapf’s win was one of the few bright spots for Penn in their contest against Cornell. Besides Zapf and Colaiocco, who dominated his opponent in a 6-3 win, the Quakers lost every match. Two pins for Cornell gave the Big Red a 30-6 win. Reina noted that Cornell was the team to beat this year in the Ivy League.
“It’s either been Penn or Cornell that’s won the Ivy League title for the last 27 years, so they’re a program that we need to march towards, and we need to continue to win battles on the recruiting front and gain ground competitively on the mat," Reina said. "We’re fully focused on doing that in the years to come."
Zapf, one of Penn's leaders on and off the mat, reiterated the fact that the Quakers need to put the doubleheader in the rearview mirror and keep pushing forward in the season.
“I feel for a lot of our guys. We had that first match, and we definitely fell short,” he said. “I think the best thing to do is get back and get after it."
The Quakers will look to bounce back this Saturday against Princeton. Although the Tigers beat the Big Red by a 19-13 score on Sunday, Penn will hope to pull off the upset in its final Ivy League dual this season.