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Junior Doug Zapf grapples with Cornell's Hunter Richard to a 4-2 victory during the meet on Feb. 6 at the Palestra. Credit: Samantha Turner

Penn wrestling prides itself on being gritty, and they proved just that as they showed out with results at the Palestra this weekend.

Over two days, Penn (5-2, EIWA 5-1) competed in three matches against #14 Lehigh, #11 Cornell, and Long Island University, respectively. The Quakers finished the weekend with a 2-1 record after beating Lehigh and LIU, but dropped a crucial match to Cornell that knocked them out of Ivy title contention.

Lehigh (8-7, 4-2)

On Friday night, Penn traveled to Bethlehem, Pa. to take on the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, coming away with a 24-7 win to gain another victory in EIWA conference play. 

A tough overtime win at the 165lbs. by sophomore #21 Lucas Revano initiated the Red and Blue momentum early. After a tight matchup with Lehigh's Brian Meyer, the contest went into overtime. Neither side budged in the first overtime period, but Revano used the rest of the overtime seconds to secure riding time in his favor en route to the victory.

“It was a close match going into overtime,” Revano said. “I felt good, I felt energetic, not tired. So for the rest of the first two minutes, it was going good. No one scored, so we went into 30-30 ride outs and he chose bottom. I rode him for like six or seven seconds. Then he escaped and he was up one, I had a stall call earlier in the match, so I chose neutral." 

"I got the stall call against, so it’s tied up but I had the six seconds of riding time. So I ended up winning on that.” 

After the victory, the momentum continued with successful bouts by freshman #18 Nick Incontrera at 174lbs., senior #32 Neil Antrassian at 184lbs., and sophomore #29 Cole Urbas at 197lbs. that helped build a 12-0 lead.

The Red and Blue had complete control of the match and never gave it back, only dropping two matches during the entire meet.

“[I am] really proud of our guys,” coach Roger Reina said. “Friday night up in Lehigh, it was a dominating final score 24-7 over Lehigh ranked number 14 in the country, but it was won on a lot of heart and a lot of really close matches that we pulled out. It was a great start to the weekend.”

Cornell (11-2, 5-0)

Saturday morning, however, was a much different story for Penn. While the team still had close matches, it was unable to come away with the victory, losing 20-12 in its annual Rumble & Tumble meet in conjunction with Penn gymnastics. 

Penn came out with a different look for the match, sporting singlets that paid homage to the great wrestling teams of the past. The day started out once again at 165lbs. with Revano coming away with an 8-2 win and an exuberating celebration at the end of the second when his competitor was unable to continue. 

After the win, the Quakers dropped the next five bouts, allowing Cornell to jump out to a 16-3 lead. 

In the 133lbs. matchup, it was a pair of ranked opponents, as sophomore #9 Michael Colaiocco and Cornell’s #30 Dom Lajoie faced off. Colaiocco and Lajoie were in a tight bout, exchanging points with each other until Colaiocco was able to pull away late in the third period with a takedown to make it 7-4. In the very next matchup, this time at 141lbs., sophomore #16 CJ Composto continued his winning ways, as he took a 5-1 victory and helped cut into the Big Red lead to 16-9. 

Later in the meet, on the last bout at 157lbs., junior #20 Doug Zapf was able to pull out a gritty win against Cornell’s #25 Hunter Richard by a score of 4-2 after almost being taken down at the end of regulation. 

With the loss, the Quakers are unable to win the Ivy League, and it forced them to watch as the Big Red celebrated clinching the title in the Palestra.

“I think we came in here excited to compete for the Ivy title today,” Reina said. “I think the record over the last 30 years either Penn or Cornell has either won or shared the Ivy title 29 of those 30 years, so it’s typically come down to this moment. I think our guys competed with a lot of heart but unlike Friday night, we dropped those close matches.” 

Credit: Samantha Turner Junior Anthony Artalona faces off against opponent Yianni Diakomihalis during the meet against Cornell on Feb. 6 at the Palestra.

LIU (0-12, 0-6)

In its second meet of the day fresh off losing its shot at an Ivy title Penn flipped the switch and came away with a dominant 50-0 win against LIU. All matches were won by major decision, technical fall, or by falls. 

The highlight of the match came at 125lbs when senior Blair Orr had to compete in the bout instead of freshman Ryan Miller. He may not have been expecting to have to suit up for the match, but Orr made the most of his opportunity, jumping out to a big 5-1 lead and then later executing a pin and winning 15-0.

“It was super fun,” Orr said. “I always try to stay ready for when I get my opportunity, when my number is called. I mean to get to do it it in front of the home crowd, in front of all my teammates and get them a little hype up. It was fun and the support of my family and everything with everyone being here. It was really fun, it was a great experience.”

For Reina, the unanticipated opportunity for Orr served as a valuable moment for a soon-departing senior.

“Blair was in our first recruit class, with the guys that came in that committed to pioneer this program, and he’s local he’s from the Southeastern Pennsylvania area,” Reina said of Orr. “He’s earned the opportunity to compete. This is a great moment for a senior to come in and win by fall today.”

For the Red and Blue, this weekend was seen as an overall success, but they still need to find ways to improve, especially with EIWA and NCAA Championships coming up in the month. 

“We'll go back take a look the film, see what technical aspects we can improve on,” Colaiocco said. “Then, not taking this too negatively maintaining a positive mindset as a team and then just continuing to improve every single day and do the things we have been doing. It's a long season and I think we focus on improving and enjoying it. I think we're going to be successful.”

The Quakers will return to action next Friday at Princeton, where they have rented out a bus for fans that has 50 spots on it and are hoping to get a crowd of supporters. After their Friday matchup, they will be at home on Sunday against their cross-town rivals, the Drexel Dragons, for Senior Day. 

“I think physically we keep pushing our conditioning," Reina said. “I think it's looking good, but I think it could get even to the next level. Then, emotionally, we just need to rebound and be hungry and go hunt tigers.”