It’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish. This rang true for Penn wrestling’s trio of dual matches this weekend and for the 10 seniors on the roster.
The Red and Blue capped off a busy weekend with a home victory against Franklin & Marshall. Although the Quakers suffered back-to-back losses on Saturday to Princeton and Drexel, they were able to recover for a strong showing in Sunday’s dual meet against the Diplomats for Senior Day.
The Red and Blue ended this year’s Ivy League competition with an away loss to the No. 14 Tigers, who are now riding a six-match winning streak. The Quakers were still battling serious injuries with four starters missing from the lineup.
Princeton jumped out to a commanding 19-0 lead by the match’s intermission. It was not until the lightweight classes that the Quakers were able to get on the scoreboard.
Freshman Michael Colaiocco battled his way to a tactical 2-0 victory at 125 pounds, and the dual meet ended with sophomore Doug Zapf’s 10-6 victory at 141 pounds. Both wrestlers have performed extremely well against Ancient Eight opponents this season, as Colaiocco has won four consecutive dual victories, while Zapf completed an undefeated season at 5-0.
Immediately after the dual meet with Princeton, the Quakers traveled to Drexel to face off for the Abner's Cheesesteak Trophy. Once again, showcasing a lineup heavy on underclassmen, the Red and Blue did their best to stay tight in every dual.
Zapf at 141 pounds opened up the match strong for Penn with a commanding 11-1 major decision. Freshman Lucas Revano built on Zapf’s performance with another 12-0 major decision at 149 pounds. This weekend was nothing new for Zapf, who remains an impressive 24-5 in overall duals and is undefeated against Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association opponents.
After the Red and Blue suffered a few consecutive losses in close duals, freshmen John Stout and No. 6 Colaiocco handled their business, dealing out a 6-5 victory at 184 pounds and a 19-7 victory at 125 pounds, respectively. Colaiocco only allowed points on escapes after eight takedowns.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, the dual meet ended with a Penn forfeit due to injury, handing Drexel the 27-15 win and bragging rights to the Cheesesteak Trophy for the fourth year running.
Following Saturday’s action, the Quakers headed back to the Palestra to cap off the packed weekend, as they cruised to a win, 27-18, against Franklin & Marshall.
The Red and Blue opened up with some quick wins to jump out to a 9-0 lead. Freshman Lucas Revano at 149 pounds handily defeated his opponent with a 20-7 major decision, followed by senior Jon Errico’s 6-1 decision at 157 pounds.
Sophomore Neil Antrassian at 174 pounds and senior Jalen Laughlin at 184 pounds continued the winning ways and helped the Quakers to a 18-3 lead by intermission. Antrassian eked out a close decision, while Laughlin dominated in a 8-1 decision in his first dual of the season.
“[Coach Roger Reina] told me it was my night and to go get it,” Laughlin said. “I really took that to heart. It really felt good to go out there and end on a high note.”
Coming out of the break, freshman Cole Urbas quickly dispatched of his opponent with a technical fall in the first period, not letting up a single point. Colaiocco extended his dual win streak to six in a 10-1 major decision, as he will look to carry his hot streak into the postseason.
The score makes it seem closer than it was, as Franklin & Marshall scored two forfeits towards the end of the match.
“The guys early on in the meet did a good job to create that spread and allowed us to rest [Daniel Planta] and [Zapf],” Reina said.
In addition to capturing a win, the Quakers celebrated their Class of 2020, featuring 10 wrestlers: Carl Antrassian, Jack Conway, Jon Errico, AJ Geers, Adam Kirsh, Patrick Munn, Jake Lizak, Brian Krasowski, Laughlin, and co-captain AJ Vindici.
“It’s been great to see how our program has risen since, and I’m looking forward to our future,” Vindici said.
“For me, [wrestling] has taught me so much about myself as a person, about life in general,” Laughlin said. “There’s a lot that this sport can teach you. It’s all about you: it’s your work, your preparation, your dedication.”
Reina shared a similar sentiment about experiencing the emotional night and saying goodbye to a devoted and tight-knit group of wrestlers.
“I’m really proud of these guys and excited for their futures and careers moving forward into the next phase of their lives,” Reina said. “I’m very appreciative of their commitment to the team.”
In their final match of the regular season, the Quakers will face difficult competition from Lehigh on Thursday. The Red and Blue will hope to snap the Mountain Hawks' nine-match winning streak and get healthy before the EIWA Championships.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.