Penn wrestling (3-1, 3-0 Ivy) has had a strong showing as of late, winning its last three events in as many tries. Currently with ten nationally ranked wrestlers, the Quakers are looking as strong as ever in their pursuit of a potential title.
“I think our team has been making strong progress, and one of our goals was to start distancing ourselves from the middle of pack Ivy League Programs,” coach Roger Reina said.
The Red and Blue have done exactly that as they dominated Columbia, Brown, and Harvard consecutively in the last several weeks. The Quakers’ overall score in the last three events tallies to an impressive 97-12, standing at 3-0 in the Ivy League.
The Quakers are also incredibly versatile, with ranked wrestlers across ages and weight classes. Freshmen Ryan Miller and Nick Incontrera have already made strong impressions in their first season.
“Both of those guys have broken into the national rankings in their freshmen year, and I think that they have been performing well," Reina said. "Those two guys, particularly, are gaining really valuable experience."
"Across the board, we’ve got nationally ranked guys recognized in one of the various national polls in every weight class,” Reina added in reference to more experienced wrestlers like Michael Colaiocco, who is one of the team’s highest-ranked members.
Senior Neil Antrassian and juniors Anthony Artalona, Doug Zapf, and Ben Goldin are also all ranked nationally. Not only do they perform excellently for the team, but they also contribute another important aspect for any championship-aspiring team: leadership.
“I think they're providing really important leadership for our team this year,” Reina said. Reina then singled out Doug Zapf: “He’s really our pacesetter. The pace that he competes [at] within his matches is really a phenomenal example. [He’s a] very offensive, high-paced competitor.”
Penn will look to take on Lehigh (8-5) this coming Friday, Feb. 4. Lehigh will be a tough opponent, as they are undefeated at home and the defending EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) champions.
“[Beating Lehigh is] another step up the ladder. [Our] most important priorities … [are] to make sure we’re focused on executing our style and compete in our position at the pace we want to wrestle,” Reina said.
After Lehigh, it will be a quick turnaround for the Quakers as they take on rival Cornell (8-2, 3-0 Ivy) at home the following Sunday.
“The Palestra for us is a really special place … if you look over the past thirty years, either Penn or Cornell has won the Ivy League title … the two most dominant teams over the past three decades will square up in the Palestra at dead one o’clock on Sunday,” Reina explained.
Penn is steadfast on its quest for both an Ivy League title and EWIA title.
“I’m just really proud of our guys to persevere through a lot of disruption due to COVID, and yet stay focused on our goals and stay focused on jumping levels,” Reina said.
A strong showing in their upcoming consecutive matches against Lehigh and Cornell will almost certainly give the Quakers the momentum they need to make that final championship push.