With the Ivy League canceling all fall sports in early July, Penn students and athletes have turned their focus and their anticipation to the winter. Penn wrestling is among the brightest sources of hope for winter success, and its members are making the most of quarantine to stay ready and prepare for a monster 2021 season.
The season is all but guaranteed to be shortened.
“We’re looking at probably a January start date, if everything goes smoothly and we are permitted by Penn and the Ivy League to be back on campus and training by then," assistant coach Bryan Pearsall said. "That’s when it’s looking like other schools will start wrestling that are going to be permitted to. Typically, our season is November to March, so it’s probably going to be a mid-January to March season, so probably about cut in half, really.”
Penn competes in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, along with five other Ivies – Yale and Dartmouth do not field teams – and 12 other schools throughout the Northeast. Pearsall believes that if the season is to go forward, it will mainly consist of dual meets, which are one-on-one meets between two schools within the EIWA, pitting the 10 starters (one per weight class) from each school against one another.
With many wrestlers living off campus and spread out across the country, the team is going to great lengths to stay in shape and motivated for the coming season.
“We have Zoom meetings weekly with the team and we discuss accountability and we try to build team culture,” team captain and sophomore Cole Urbas said. “We have guest speakers on sometimes, so those are good times to get everyone together and build the culture a little bit.”
The guest speakers have included two Penn wrestling alumni: Garrett Reisman, a NASA astronaut, and Brian Butler, an FBI hostage rescuer.
“[Reisman] was in space for 99 days or something like that, so [he] talked to us about how to thrive, how to live in isolation,” Pearsall said. “[Butler] talked to the team about preparing for situations which may never occur. You know, he’s training every day for these life and death situations that may never occur, and we’re preparing for an NCAA championship, which we don’t know whether it’s going to occur or not, but treating it like it’s going to happen.”
Both speakers helped the members of the team focus on preparing and remaining ready for the upcoming season. Urbas also spoke to the importance of staying in shape and continuing to work out even with the future of the season up in the air.
“We’ve just been holding each other accountable to workouts, like ‘Hey, I went on a run today, so you go on a run today,’” Urbas said.
Urbas expects the team to compete at the EIWA Tournament, adding that he predicts that five to seven wrestlers could potentially advance to the NCAA Tournament. Pearsall expressed pride in this season’s young but talented team. Touting a large freshman class, this is Penn wrestling’s third nationally-recognized recruiting class in a row. He also predicted that some returners to the team, such as Urbas and junior Anthony Artalona could go deep in the NCAA Tournament if it is held.
“We feel that the three things that we’re really focused on – recruiting, fundraising, and team development – that we’ve made big strides in all three areas over the past months,” Pearsall said. “It’s going to be a fun year.”