Not much can keep Daniel Planta off the mat.
Earlier this school year, Planta returned to competition for Penn wrestling after an injury and recovery process that took over a year. The junior is making his resurgence as a strong competitor known with very successful results.
Planta's love of wrestling has deep roots. He began the sport at age seven, and while he was already a multi-sport athlete, his allegiance lay firmly with wrestling. After spending a couple of years competing for his local recreation center's team, he switched over to a travel team called the Warhawks at nine, and as the competition escalated, so did Planta’s love for the sport.
“The first time I really saw my own potential in wrestling and really started taking it seriously was when I was in sixth or seventh grade," Planta said. “I started traveling to national competitions and getting beaten, and then when I was in eighth grade, I really turned a corner and started doing really well in some of those national youth tournaments, and started to build a platform and make a name for myself."
As his career as a wrestler began to unfold, Planta also competed on a team for the state of Maryland, on which he wrestled at major national tournaments.
“Actually, that state of Maryland team was made up of about half of guys from the Warhawks team, which I feel like really speaks to the strength of that program," he said.
Going into high school, Planta chose to attend the private St. Paul's School rather than the public high school to which he was districted because St. Paul's offered the opportunity to wrestle in more notable and competitive tournaments, like the annual Powerade Wrestling Tournament just outside of Pittsburgh.
“The high school team was pretty small. We honestly couldn’t even fill a lineup most years, but we would always have at least about three other kids besides myself make it to the national tournament," Planta said. “I think that the small room and the coaches that we had were really invaluable in taking our careers to bigger places."
Once Planta came to Penn and started competing, an existing injury combined with another injury sustained in competition forced him to leave competition during his freshman season and for the entirety of his sophomore year.
In the months leading up to starting at Penn, Planta hurt one of his shoulders while training. Despite the injury, he was able to recover enough to start for the Red and Blue during his freshman year and had a strong start to the season. However, come January, he was injured again with another labrum tear, but this time in his other shoulder, which required two surgeries. He also suffered a concussion at that time.
As a result of this setback, Planta worked with his coaches and the NCAA and was granted a medical hardship year, giving him an extra year of eligibility as a wrestler for Penn. Despite freshman Michael Colaiocco claiming the starting spot at 125 pounds for the Quakers, Planta was still able to make his comeback last month.
“Coming into this season, we did recruit another very good 125-pounder, so I knew that regardless, injury or not, I wouldn’t be the top guy. But even given that, I want to do anything I can to work my way back and help out wherever I can," Planta said. “I finally wrestled my first tournament earlier in January. Even though it’s not the same position I was in my freshman year, I still find it just as valuable to be able to chip in for the team when I can, especially given the circumstances.”
As far as the rest of his wrestling career at Penn, Planta’s goal is to be able to step in and help whenever he is given the chance. Whether that means moving a weight class or being called upon in Colaiocco's absence, Planta will continue to play a crucial role, no matter the obstacles in his path.