A coach usually doesn’t like to see his players fight, but this weekend, head wrestling coach Roger Reina watched intently as the team faced off in intrasquad bouts during this year’s wrestle-offs.
Wrestle-offs took place on Saturday and Sunday in the Palestra as an opportunity for the wrestlers to secure their role on the team, taking each other on the mat to compete for a starting spot.
Wrestle-offs are an important facet of the sport and are one of the helping factors toward the lineups in each weight class for the upcoming season. Other factors Reina is keeping in mind are upcoming tournaments, as well as overall work ethic and preseason development.
“Wrestling your friends is always tough,” senior captain Carmen Ferrante said. “We know each other, it’s hard, and nobody ever likes to do it. Honestly, for me, this is one of the toughest weekends of the year every time we do it.”
Arguably the most important match of the weekend was between Ferrante and freshman Kyle Hauserman. The two were both vying to replace NCAA All-American CJ Composto in the 141 weight class. Composto, who was also named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Freshman of the Year, is currently taking a gap year as he recovers from an injury sustained last spring.
The match between Ferrante and Hauserman was the closest of the Sunday matches, with Ferrante narrowly defeating Hauserman in a one-point victory.
“At this point, Carmen’s got that spot,” Reina said.
Ferrante returns to the 141 weight class after losing the spot to Composto in two close wrestle-offs last year. Despite losing out last year, Ferrante feels ready to step up and fill the role.
"Me and [Composto] had some close matches, so I’m confident, from those results, that I can carry that into competition this year,” Ferrante said.
With Neil Antrassian having graduated from the program last season, the 184 weight class has another vacancy that needs to be filled. Antrassian went 16-11 his senior season, earning an All-Ivy Honorable Mention, and being named an alternate for NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Juniors John Stout and Max Hale both wrestled at that weight on Saturday. While Hale won the match, Reina believes the spot is still up for grabs.
“I thought physically they both looked very well prepared," Reina said. "Max Hale ended up winning that match, but they’re both going to have really good opportunities to show in the upcoming tournaments. I am excited to see how each of them develop.”
Reina added that sophomore Connor Strong — who was sick over the weekend — and senior Jesse Quatse are also vying to replace Antrassian in the 184 weight class.
Strong replacements in two crucial spots are important for a team that fell just one game short of winning the Ivy League championship last season. The team enters the season ranked No. 21 in D-I. Penn is the second highest ranked Ivy behind the defending Ivy League champion Cornell, who sits at No. 7. According to Reina, winning the Ivy League is one of the goals the team has posted in the locker room.
“The pace of our improvement, the attention to detail, the trust and buy in, in terms of the program’s direction," Reina said, "If they commit to each of those areas with full effort we’re going to be in a good position to challenge for the Ivy title.”
With wrestle-offs behind them, the Quakers are already looking forward to their first tournaments. The team heads to the Journeymen Collegiate Classic next weekend, and the following weekend hosts the Keystone Classic before heading to their first dual meet against No. 2 Iowa.
“We are ready to compete with outside competition,” Reina said, “We’ve been training together, training with each other, competing against each other this weekend, but everyone’s ready. Let’s go wrestle someone else. Let's go compete.”