After a promising season last year that ultimately saw Penn wrestling fall short of its dreams of achieving All-American status, there were questions surrounding whether or not the team would be able to sustain such levels of success after several key contributors have since graduated. This weekend, the team gave its answer as it dominated the competition en route to a victory at the PRTC Keystone Classic.
Although the team entered the weekend as the 26th ranked team in the nation, Penn was not the favored school to walk away with the title. Among the schools in attendance at the event were No. 9 Virginia Tech and No. 29 Indiana. However, the experience of the more veteran wrestlers in combination with the immediate impact of many of the team’s freshmen gave Penn the advantage. Out of the 10 weight classes, four Quakers captured individual titles.
The team set the tone early with both of the finalists of the 125-pound weight class representing the Red and Blue. Just two weeks prior, freshman Max Gallagher and junior Ryan Miller had faced off against each other in practice. That time, Miller walked away victorious. This time, the script was flipped. In Gallagher’s first appearance at a tournament, he was able to walk away with the individual title by defeating Miller 4-1.
Gallagher’s path to that final round was no walk in the park. He had to first go through 2023 All-American Eddie Ventresca who wrestles for Virginia Tech in the semifinals. Two takedowns in the third and fourth round secured him a place in the final. As a freshman, this was exactly the start that Gallagher was hoping to get off to, and he hopes that his performance from this weekend will continue into the rest of the season.
“I would love to be the starter for Penn,” said Gallagher. “Being able to represent the school means a lot to me, and I just really want to have a great first year.”
Gallagher wasn’t the only Quaker freshman to find success on the mats. Fellow freshman Alex Almeyda (133) also did his part, claiming the individual title in his weight class. With several of Penn’s key contributors graduating last year, the ability for the freshmen to immediately step in and fill these holes will continue to play a pivotal role as the team chases an NCAA Championship set to take place at the end of the season.
Junior CJ Composto added to Penn’s tally as he secured the 141-pound individual title against Indiana’s Danny Fongaro in a 4-2 decision. To close out the individual titles for the Red and Blue, junior Nick Incontrera would take the win from Drexel’s Jasiah Queen by major decision, 16-3.
For Incontrera, the moment was one that he had been waiting for since he had made it to the final round as a freshman and walked away titleless. After bowing out in the first round at the NCAA championships at the end of last season, Incontrera used the off-season to revise his mindset to better set himself up for success.
“I think it's all part of the process,” Incontrera said. “Last year we were very goal orientated. This year our focus has shifted to more mindset-type goals — goals that are achievable every single day. If you fail, you can go and achieve it the next day. It's more about design, process and progress. Not so much about winning.”
In addition to four individual titles, sophomore Jackson Polo reached the final round in the 149-pound weight class while senior Michael Colaiocco (133), sophomore Kelly Dunnigan (149), freshman Jude Swisher (157), junior Maximus Hale (184), and freshman Martin Cosgrove (197) all finished third in their respective weight classes.
All together, 28 wrestlers took the mat to secure 178.5 total points points for the Quakers — enough to earn the team its first Keystone Classic team title since 2021. It's still early in the season, but the stage is currently set for what could be one for the history books.
Penn wrestling will return to the Palestra on Dec. 1 to face off against No. 4 Iowa at 7 p.m.