After 616 days, Penn’s wrestling team is competing once again.
The Quakers opened their 2021-22 season at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic on Nov. 14. The one-day, round-robin individual tournament took place at Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pa.
Michael Colaiocco, a sophomore who is ranked ninth in the nation, won all three of his bouts in the 133-pound weight class and claimed the Hammer Award. In the championship round, he beat Devan Turner from Oregon State, a redshirt senior who is ranked 19th in the nation.
“Over the last year or so, I’ve had some big ups and downs. I will admit that my relationship with wrestling was rocky for a while, but recently I’ve had a newfound love for the sport,” Colaiocco said. “The experience this weekend was fun, but not only because I won. I genuinely enjoyed competing and seeing the progress that my team and I have worked so hard to achieve.”
In addition to Colaiocco’s standout performance, some highlights of the day include freshman Nick Incontrera (174), who defeated Mateo Olmos of Oregon State to win the B tier. Sophomore Lucas Revano (165) defeated Lehigh's Connor Herceg and Hofstra's Ricky Stamm before falling to Lehigh's Brian Meyer to place second.
Captain and junior Doug Zapf (157) beat ninth-ranked and returning All-American Josh Humphreys of Lehigh to take third place.
While Penn's coach Roger Reina was confident in his team going into the Classic, due to the lack of matches, he couldn’t have predicted exactly how the performance would go.
“While we weren’t competing, we have made very good strength and conditioning gains, and we’ve made good technical improvements as well,” Reina said. “The in-match tactical improvements will come with more competitive experience."
Due to a cancelled 2020 season, this was the first college match for Penn’s freshmen and sophomores, a collegiate debut for a total of 14 players.
“Our team dynamic is good and continuing to improve. We have four back-to-back nationally recognized recruiting classes, and they are coming together with purpose and intent,” Reina said. “We have more ground to cover, but our chemistry and culture are moving in the right direction.”
Despite the challenge of the break in competitions, Colaiocco is optimistic about the competitions ahead, and thinks that the team learned valuable lessons and continued to grow while in the off-season.
“Penn wrestling hasn’t skipped a beat. Thanks to the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center, most of our athletes were training and competed a number of times over the past year,” Colaiocco said. “In fact, our team dynamic has improved immensely during this time. It has given us a chance to take a deeper look into our team culture and devise a plan to improve our squad’s leadership and performance.”
Moving forward, Reina said that the team looks to watch film, evaluate strengths and areas of improvement, and build on experience gained on Sunday.
“Along with some technical nuances, the team has made it a priority to work on our mental preparation this week,” Colaiocco said. “Some of us will continue to ride the high of a great performance this weekend, while others will learn to reset and avenge their losses. Whatever the case is, we have our work cut out for us.”
Next Sunday, Nov. 21, the Quakers will be returning to the Palestra for the Keystone Classic, and try to defend its Keystone Team Title.