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Wrestling drops Ivy contenders

(02/03/98 10:00am)

Brandon Slay's record-setting 97th win paces Penn to wins over Cornell and Columbia. After a rough stretch of season in which the Penn wrestling team faced most of the upper echelon teams in the nation, the Quakers had to switch gears Friday night at the Palestra. In the first part of the year, the 14th-ranked Quakers faced programs such as No. 2 Iowa and No. 1 Oklahoma State in huge tournaments, but Friday's match against Ivy rival Cornell marked the beginning of Penn's dual meet season. The Quakers' match against No. 20 Cornell was "critical," according to Penn coach Roger Reina. For the better part of a decade, the Big Red and the Quakers have been the dominant forces in the Ivy League. On the strength of Brandon Slay's record-setting win, Penn asserted itself Friday night as the Ivy pacesetter with a 22-15 victory. The match was nip and tuck throughout, with both teams losing and regaining the lead. Penn fell behind early, 12-7, after losses by Martine Apodaca (142 pounds) and Tim Ortman (150). An injury default against Rick Springman (158) and a Brandon Slay (167) victory gave the Quakers a 16-12 lead and put them up for good. With his victory, senior captain Slay tied Brian Butler's Penn wrestling record of 96 career victories. Slay felt Cornell gave Penn more trouble than it should have, but was happy with the win. "It was a big win for us," he said. "We didn't wrestle as well as we wanted to, but we got the 'W' and that's what the most important thing is. The Quakers hoped to make a more emphatic statement after facing such top-flite competition all year long. They did not mind, however, winning ugly, as long as they got the win. "Cornell is our toughest competition this year in the Ivy league, and to beat them right off the bat sets the stage," Slay said. "It helps your mindset going into the rest of the Ivy League duals to know that you took out the toughest team first." The win over No. 20 Cornell was not only important in terms of Ivy standings, but also should help in terms of Eastern and National rankings. Coming out with confidence against one of the few unranked teams they have faced, the Quakers handled Columbia easily, cruising to a 34-6 win. Penn's match against the Lionsfeatured only two lost bouts and was peppered with dominating performances. Steve Walker (126) and Springman had second and first period pins, respectively.. "We wanted to open it up a little bit [and] score some more points," Walker said. "We did for the most part, a little bit better than last night [against Cornell]." Slay's easy 18-3 victory gave him 97 victories in his Penn career, putting him ahead of Butler in the record books. Slay felt "great," but was quick to credit the help of his coaches and teammates. "I'm really proud to do it for myself and for Penn wrestling," Slay said. "I've had some exceptional coaching [and] some great workout partners that have allowed me to do that. Although Slay was happy to put his name in the annals of Penn wrestling history, he hated having to unseat Brian Butler. "[Butler] was one of my best buddies," Slay said. "He was a guy that was a big part of recruiting me when I came here.It's always tough to look at the guys you beat." Reina considers Slay one in a long line of Penn wrestling champions. "I remember the day when Butler set that record, and Adam Green before him, and I look forward to the younger guys who will someday eclipse him," Reina said. "But today, this is Brandon's day, and I was happy to see him reach that milestone." The Quakers finished the weekend off with a Saturday night match at Drexel. Penn capped off the two days of competition with another solid victory, 26-9. The overmatched Dragons did manage some impressive wins, including upsets over Walker, who leads Penn with 18 wins this season, and Slay. "We gave up a couple of stupid losses," Penn assistant coach Richard Hines said. "Slay got beat with 15 seconds left and Walker didn't have his head in the match like he should have." The weekend brought Penn three victories in two days and an individual milestone. But the Quakers were not exactly satisfied. The Quakers did live up to the pressure of being the favored team in the Ivy League over the weekend, getting off to a 2-0 Ivy start. But Hines said the team feels it "under-performed," and needs to bring its level of competition up a notch to truly dominate both the Ivies and the East

Wrestlers are adjusting well to new weight rules

(01/29/98 10:00am)

Wrestlers have changed their weight loss habits as a result of three weight related deaths in 33 days. The dreaded freshman 15. It is the bane of many a first year college student's existence. But to a wrestler, weight gain means much more than social ostracism and love handles. It represents a performance impediment, and, in some cases, a life-threatening calamity. Three college wrestlers died across the country in a span of 33 days this season as a result of trying to cut weight. These wrestlers underwent grueling physical duress in attempts to cut as much as 25 pounds in less than four days. Using methods such as bicycling in a shower room while wearing a rubber suit under their workout sweats, the wrestlers pushed their bodies to beyond the limits -- and paid the price. Eventually their bodies simply quit under the strain. One wrestler's heart gave out as he was crawling to the weigh-in scale. In the wake of the three tragic deaths, the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee made recommendations to the NCAA Competitive Safeguards Committee to institute major changes in the way wrestlers are allowed to cut weight. Those changes will be in effect Friday and Saturday as the Penn wrestling team takes on Cornell and Columbia at the Palestra. The Cornell match will begin at 9 p.m. Friday after the conclusion of the men's basketball game, with the Lions arriving at 2 p.m. the following afternoon. After consultations with such organizations as the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, who were themselves conducting inquiries into the three deaths, the Rules Committee put into place guidelines and regulations which all NCAA programs must follow. The major points of the new rules include a ban on the use of rubber suits, a temperature limit of 79 degrees in practice facilities and a new weigh-in process in which athletes weigh in two hours before a competition rather than the day before. For the remainder of the season, wrestlers will have a seven-pound cushion when trying to make weight. For instance, Penn captain Brandon Slay, who recently dropped from the 177-pound division to the 167-pound weight class, can weigh up to 174 pounds before his matches. Slay appreciates the new rules, and says they have even made it easier for him to train. "[The new rules] have made wrestling more enjoyable for me," Slay said. "I don't have to worry about making weight using plastics." "I just eat right and work out hard, and my weight stays under control." Slay also takes comfort in the fact that he will not have to drop all the way to 167 pounds. Having most recently weighed in at 172 1/2 pounds, Slay calls the weight cushion a "positive feeling." According to Penn coach Roger Reina, the new regulations are not adversely affecting the Quakers wrestling team in the least. "Particularly for our group, we've always had a pretty disciplined approach to making weight," Reina said. "It hasn't been that significant of an adjustment for us." Overall Reina applauded the efforts of the Rules Committee, agreeing that many of the measures were necessary. He does, however, find fault with the outright ban on rubber suits. Reina cited the previous "decades" of the use of rubber suits in the wrestling community, all without incident. "Like a lot of things in life, if used appropriately, [rubber suits] are safe," Reina said. "We've had athletes use them. I've used them myself." "If used inappropriately, combined with a poor diet and poor planning, obviously they can have detrimental effects," he added. Reina is also not worried about the effects of the new weigh-in schedule. As high school wrestlers must check in the day of the match, all the wrestlers have had experience with such an arrangement. The team's travel plans, though, will change slightly. Rather than arrive at a tournament the day before competition starts, Penn will have to arrive the day of competition, putting a different slant on match preparation. Reina tries to encourage healthy weight loss through proper dietary instruction and individual attention in order to find the optimal performance weight. "We don't have control 24 hours a day, seven days a week of what people are eating," Reina said. "So what we try to do is provide as much information as possible." This information comes in many forms, including about half of the wrestlers' training manual and providing healthy food to the wrestlers on road trips. With additional talk of adding more weight classes to wrestling meets next season, the Rules Committee's recommendations stand to be the beginning of reforming the wrestling community at large. "If wrestling can eventually get to the point where guys don't have to pull as much weight and they can just go out there and worry about wrestling," Slay said. "Then wrestling is going to be a much better sport, for wrestlers and fans."

Wrestling dropped by host Iowa

(01/20/98 10:00am)

The Penn wrestling team imagined itself in only one light Saturday, as it entered the Cliff Keen National Wrestlers Coaches Association National Dual Meet Championships in Iowa City, Iowa: a team on the rise. Coming off a road trip which pitted them against the top teams in the country and ranked an unprecedented 12th nationally, the Quakers felt ready to face the challenge and become the first Ivy League team to ever place in the national duals. But there to give Penn a hearty welcome in the very first round of competition was host Iowa. The Hawkeyes were ranked No. 2 in the country at the time and had lost only two times ever at their home, Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A tough draw for the Quakers, no doubt, who had already seen No. 4 Arizona State, as well as nationally respected Michigan State and Iowa State, and who had matched up well against those foes. "That was probably the toughest draw to get right off the bat," said captain Brandon Slay, ranked No. 3 in the country at 167 pounds. "But that was something that was very educational and beneficial for our team to do." Penn fell 30-3 to the Hawkeyes, winning only one match out of ten. The Quakers fought hard and kept most of the matches very close. But they could not come up with the goods at the end of the bouts, save Mike Fickell (177 pounds), who defeated Lee Weber 10-8 to earn Penn its only points. "A lot of our matches were close, but we lost that dual because we didn't step it up in a lot of critical situations," Slay said. "When we were close right there at the end of the match, the Iowa guys stepped up and pulled it out instead of our guys stepping it up and pulling it out." Slay himself lost a tough bout, falling to top-ranked Joe Williams 5-3. Williams and Slay faced off once previously, in the finals of the Midlands Open, where Williams came out the victor 5-3 as well. The match bore eerie resemblances to the Midlands confrontation, as Williams bested Slay with two quick shots once again. Slay will get a chance to avenge the defeats at the National All-Star Meet in February in what may be a preview of the NCAA Championship final. "Next time I've got to get a takedown on him and I've got to wrestle better defense," Slay said. "If I want to be the best wrestler in the country? I'm going to have step it up in those close situations." Penn coach Roger Reina was not disheartened at the prospect of facing Iowa first. In fact, he looked forward to it. "I had written the guys over the summer to try and imagine the opportunity of wrestling Iowa at Iowa," Reina said. "I was happy to draw them." Reina thought his wrestlers performed well against the Hawkeyes, but lamented the inability to convert in pressure situations. One such case was a near pin by Andrei Rodzianko (190) of the defending national champ, Lee Fullhart. "We wrestled pretty well, but we lost the vast majority of those critical situations that determined the close matches," Reina said. After the first round setback, Penn took on San Francisco State in the first consolation round. Coming out stronger and more confident against the No. 1 ranked team in Division II, the Quakers bounced back with a 28-6 drubbing. San Francisco State only mustered two victories, against two of Penn's non-starting competitors. "We came out really confident against that team," Slay said. "We just put it to them hard." Highlighting the second dual match was freshman Justin Bravo's (118) 7-4 victory over Damon Broadbent. Broadbent had beaten Bravo at the Midlands, preventing Bravo from reaching the placing rounds. Penn went into the second consolation round against West Virginia hoping to reach the placing rounds. West Virginia, however, squeaked out a 20-19 victory and ended Penn's competition. The Quakers jumped out to a 9-0 lead on the strength of Bravo's pin against Angelo Zegarelli, and Steve Walker's (126) 7-5 win over Bob Patensky. Penn lost its momentum quickly, though, with losses by Mark Piotrowsky (134), an overtime pin against Yoshi Nakamura (142) and major decision losses by Tim Ortman (150) and Rick Springman (158). Now down 17-9, the Quakers got a major decision win from Slay to pull within 17-13. Mike Fickell lost in a decision to make the score 20-13. Six points from regular decision wins by Rodzianko and heavyweight Bandele Adeniyi-Bada were not enough, bringing the final to 20-19 in favor of West Virginia. "It was just a hard weekend to swallow," Slay said. "We were there at the end of the dual meets sitting there watching West Virginia compete for fifth and sixth place. "We were sitting there watching Arizona State compete for seventh and eighth place knowing that we should have been there." Overall, Reina was satisfied with his team's competitiveness, but stressed the need to finish out matches and convert lost opportunities. "The lesson is that there's really not very much separating us from teams that finish in the top six in the country," he said. "The difference is recognizing and capitalizing on critical situations." The Quakers will take the lessons they learned into the bulk of their dual meet season, which will include most of their Ivy and Eastern competition.

Wrestling pins national ranking

(01/15/98 10:00am)

Penn coach Roger Reina has revamped the wrestling program and brought it national respect since taking over for Larry Lauchle before the 1986-87 season. Being a college wrestler was tough, but as Penn wrestling coach Roger Reina learned, being the youngest Division I wrestling coach in the country is equally challenging. Reina, only three years removed from college when he accepted the position in 1986, answered the challenge by reviving a program that won just two Ivy League matches between 1983 and 1986. After wrestling at Penn from 1980-84 and being an assistant coach for two more years, Reina was charged with filling the shoes of Larry Lauchle, an NCAA titlist and a two-time Olympian. Despite the challenge of replacing Lauchle, Reina remained unphased and committed himself to bringing prestige back to Penn wrestling, which was a dominant force in both the Ivy League and the East in the late 60's and early 70's. "[Taking over and rebuilding] didn't seem daunting at the time," said Reina, the former American history major and wrestling team captain at Penn. "I was excited about the opportunity to coach at my alma mater." One of Reina's primary concerns after taking over in 1986 was to deal with what he felt was a "de-emphasis on wrestling" on the part of the athletic administration. "Lauchle came into a strong program," Reina said. "But decisions were made to de-emphasize the department's support. "[Also] the alumni hadn't been mobilized, and they weren't lending a lot of support themselves." Without much external support just before and into the beginning of Reina's reign, a team emphasis was hard to achieve. A handful of wrestlers achieved individual success, but the program as a whole struggled. But Reina felt sure he could buck the trend. "I was confident we could increase the support through the alumni," Reina said. "And Pennsylvania is a hotbed of high school talent, [so we could] improve recruiting." But Reina's plan took time. In his first season as head coach, 1986-87, the Quakers accumulated a 6-14 record and finished last in the Ivy League, with an 0-6 conference record. The next year, however, things began to look up for Penn, as the team finished with a winning record of 10-8. After a 10-8-1 season in 1988-89, Penn notched a 17-5-1 record and finished third in the Ivies. The turnaround was underway. The Athletic Department became more supportive of Penn wrestling, according to Reina, but the team still needed alumni support to branch out into national competition. Reina found great success in rallying alumni support. In fact, over the last two years, wrestling donations by alumni are second only to football. The increased funding and improved results fed off each other. With the means available to compete against better competition, the wrestlers gained valuable experience and parlayed that into victories. Those improved results in turn got more people interested in Penn wrestling, thereby upping support. By the early '90s, Penn was no longer the Ivy cellar-dweller, finishing third in 1991-92 and going undefeated in 1993-94 to win the conference. The past five years have seen Penn take enormous strides in establishing itself as a national presence. The Quakers made quick progress -- first in the East, with fifth place finishes in 1992-93 and 1994-95 and a second place finish in 1993-94 at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships. Penn finally cracked the national rankings in 1994-95, ending up 48th at the NCAA Championships. Continuing their steady improvement, the Quakers finished 33rd in 1995-96 and 23rd last year. Assistant coach Richard Hines wrestled at Penn under Reina from 1990-95, and has seen drastic improvement in his time. He credits both great recruiting classes and old-fashioned hard work for the rise to national prominence. "[It was] a lot of hard work, a lot of time, people just believing in the goals that we've set," Hines said. "As you do better for the season, the next season you get better recruits, so it kind of builds on itself." The leap from regional to national competition was not an easy one to take for the Quakers. "Around the country, people see Ivy League and they just think we're a bunch of eggheads," said senior captain Mark Piotrowsky, who as a freshman saw his team finish sixth at the EIWAs and last year was a part of the EIWA champion squad. "They don't understand that we can wrestle, too." Assistant coach Brian Dolph, who joined Penn four years ago after a successful wrestling career at Indiana University, cites individual attention as one reason for the success. "We've really developed a lot of personal attention to each of the wrestlers," Dolph said. "We devote a lot of time to helping the individuals excel within their own capabilities." Piotrowsky said of Dolph, "Everything he shows us works." Whatever the reason for Penn's marked improvement, it has certainly come a long way from Reina's first year and the 0-6 Ivy record. Right now, the Quakers are reaching unprecedented heights. Ranked No. 12 in the country and poised to make a splash at the National Dual Meets and the NCAA Championships, only time will tell how far the Quakers will move up in the national scene.

Wrestling third at Tournament of Champions

(01/13/98 10:00am)

The Penn wrestling team improved from an eighth place finish at Midlands to place third in Reno, Nevada. Coming off an eighth-place finish at the Midlands Open Tournament at Northwestern University, the Penn wrestling team hit the road for the second leg of their winter break road trip. The Quakers headed to Reno, Nevada, for the Reno Tournament of Champions, where they encountered stiff opposition from some of the best teams in the country, including No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 5 Michigan and No. 19 Rider. According to Penn coach Roger Reina, it was the first time a Quakers team had ever encountered the opportunity to wrestle the country's top ranked team. Seizing the opportunity to gain experience against the nation's finest, Penn wrestled its way to a third place finish. Opening the tournament against top-ranked Oklahoma State, Penn fell 35-3. To put the loss into perspective, however, no team at the tournament scored over three points against Oklahoma, which beat its three opponents by a combined score of 102-9. Highlighting Penn's match against the Cowboys was heavyweight Bandele Adeniyi-Bada's 9-2 victory. "He wrestled very solidly," Reina said. "He dominated his match." Tim Ortman (150 pounds), second-ranked Brandon Slay (167) and Andrei Rodzianko (190) all put up tough fights as well. Ortman and Rodzianko had early leads but could not hang on to win, while Slay lost his match in sudden death overtime. Although the scoreboard was not kind after the match, Reina was pleased with the way his team competed against Oklahoma State, which has not lost more than one match in a dual meet all year. "The experience of having competed against the top team in the country is something that's clearly going to benefit us down the road," Reina said. "We proved to ourselves -- even though it didn't happen --that we are clearly capable of winning four matches against them out of 10, which is more than any team has won against them all year." Bouncing back from the defeat, Penn pounced on Boise State in the consolation semifinals, winning 23-12. The Quakers received close victories from Steve Walker (126) and Yoshi Nakamura (142), and a strong 17-1 technical fall victory from Slay. Based on his No. 2 national ranking, Slay learned over break that he was invited to the National All-Star meet to be held in February. With a win against what Reina termed a "very rugged, very physical" Boise State team, Penn found itself in the third place match against No. 4 Arizona State, who they had met five days earlier at the Midlands. The match never was played, though, as Arizona State forfeited. Having already wrestled three dual meets that day and citing injured and sick wrestlers, Arizona State felt unable to compete in a fourth dual match against Penn, automatically giving the Quakers the third place title. The Quakers were pleased with the third place finish, but were obviously disappointed not to get a chance to compete against Arizona State or Michigan. "That was frustrating because those were both teams we felt we matched up with very well," Reina said. "That would have been a good opportunity? to turn it around at that match," team captain Rodzianko added. "But they didn't want to wrestle, so you can't just make them." The third and final stop on Penn's road trip was a dual meet at Stanford, which the Quakers took easily, 28-6. Penn won all but two bouts, taking its dual meet record to 2-1. "Given the length of the road trip, and Stanford being on the tail end of it," said Reina, "I was happy to come out with a win in seven of the nine bouts that were competed." After facing the best programs in the country all break, Penn emphatically defeated the overmatched Cardinals. The win against Stanford capped off a solid road trip for the Quakers, after much traveling and grueling competition. "After a long trip like that," senior captain Mark Piotrowsky said, "it was pretty nice to get that solid victory." Overall, the winter break road trip was a successful one. On the strength of the eighth-place finish at the Midlands and the third-place showing at Reno, Penn's national ranking moved to No. 12, up two from its No. 14 mark at the beginning of the season.

Wrestlers shine, team suffers at Midlands

(01/12/98 10:00am)

Men's wrestling team was disappointed by a dismal opening day in Chicago. Winter break arrived for the Penn wrestling team with many questions still lingering. Would Penn finally assert itself against the nation's wrestling elite? Would the Quakers' top wrestlers continue their standout seasons? Would the youthful core of the team step up to meet the challenge of being on a top-ranked wrestling squad? A tough road swing, with stops in Chicago for the Midlands, in Reno for the Tournament of Champions and at Stanford for a dual meet gave the Quakers a chance to prove their mettle against the nation's best. Penn rang in the New Year at the Midlands Open Tournament, held at Northwestern University December 30-31. The Quakers hoped to use the Midlands as a gauge for their place among the powerhouse wrestling schools, facing No. 2 Iowa as well as nationally respected Illinois, Oregon and Iowa State. Entering the tournament with four ranked wrestlers, Penn finished a disappointing eighth, due largely to an awful showing in the final consolation round Dec. 30. The day's competition lasted well into the midnight hour. Of the six wrestlers on the mat in the final round of matches that day, only one, freshman Yoshi Nakamura, advanced. The five losses hurt Penn's team score drastically. Instead of sending eight wrestlers -- almost half the team -- into action in the placing rounds on Dec. 31, Penn was left with three--Nakamura, senior Steve Walker and senior captain Brandon Slay. Even though the wrestlers had to wrestle up to five matches the first day and finish their last matches at around 12:30 in the morning, Penn coach Roger Reina was quick to dismiss the length of the day as a reason for the consolation round collapse. "The other guys are wrestling just as much," Reina said. "Everybody wrestles the same number of rounds, so that's not really any excuse." Rather, Reina cited individual differences for each defeat: inexperience in the case of freshman Justin Bravo (118 pounds); the inability of senior captain Mark Piotrowsky (134) to rebound from a tough 6-4 loss to rival Dustin DeNunzio of Harvard; a lack of increased intensity from Mike Fickell (177); and a technical mistake by heavyweight Bandele Adeniyi-Bada. Also falling in the damaging round was senior captain Andrei Rodzianko (190), who saw his first action in nine months after coming back from an injury. "It takes a while to get back into it," Rodzianko said. "Not competing in nine months definitely had an impact." The five losses in the consolation round not only hurt the team's score at the Midlands, but also denied many Penn wrestlers a chance to compete against some top-ranked opponents Penn hopes to see at the National Dual Meets and the NCAA Championships. "When we go to Nationals, we have to be able to perform in every round," Slay said. "We can't wrestle like that and be a top-10 team; It's not going to happen." The three bright spots for the Quakers at the Midlands were Walker, who placed fifth, Nakamura, who placed fifth, and Slay, who placed second. No. 3 ranked Steve Walker continued his outstanding year in the 126-pound weight class, finishing fifth after a victory at the Penn State Open. Walker lost his semifinal match against No. 2-ranked Dwight Hinson of Iowa State, and then lost his first consolation match to No. 4-ranked Doug Schwab of Iowa. Walker came out more physical in his last match, controlling Oregon's David Perkins for most of the match en route to an 11-7 triumph. Nakamura entered his first Midlands unranked, but with promising showings at previous tournaments, including a fifth place finish at the Keystone Classic and an eighth place result at the Penn State Open. Knocked down to the consolation bracket with a loss in the quarterfinals, Nakamura worked his way back to put himself in a position to enter the third-place match. Facing North Carolina's John Marc Bentley, Nakamura made what appeared to be a successful takedown with ten seconds remaining in the match. The two points would have put Nakamura up 3-2. The referee, however, judged that Nakamura did not have control and did not award the points, enabling Bentley to take the match 2-1. Nakamura came back from the difficult loss to beat Tracy Brown of Arizona State 6-5 to take fifth, himself withstanding a late-match charge from Brown. "I should have taken the ref out of the match," said Nakamura. "I shouldn't have let the match be that close." His teammate Walker, for one, was not surprised by the freshman's success at the Midlands. "He can place here," Walker said. "I think he got ripped off in the earlier match, but he's tough." Slay, ranked No. 3 at the Midlands, wrestled his way past No. 2 Casey Strand of Arizona State, who defeated Slay in the finals last year, to get into the finals with Iowa's top-ranked Joe Williams. The match was close throughout, but Williams took a 5-1 lead on two successive takedowns. A stalling call and an escape made the final score 5-3 in favor of Williams, whose quickness did Slay in. "I got second here last year, so anything second or below was not acceptable [for me]," said Slay, who dropped from the 177-pound division to 167 pounds at the Midlands. "Those were two of the fastest shots anybody has ever taken on me." Reina saw the match as a preview of things to come. "They are two of the very best wrestlers in the country," Reina said. "Hopefully they'll have the chance to decide who's the best in the finals of the NCAAs." Overall, Penn hoped to make a stronger statement than eighth at Midlands. "We could have done better," Walker said. "We could have had a lot more placers, but the only thing we can do is just learn from it." The Quakers had to learn quickly, as they were set to face No. 1 Oklahoma State in Reno January 4.

Wrestling's Slay drops to 167 pounts after loss

(12/11/97 10:00am)

Quakers All-American senior Brandon Slay suffered a rare overtime loss last weekend in the finals of the Penn State Open. With the usual suspects turning in solid performances and the less experienced Quakers chipping in confidence-building results, the Quakers stand poised after Sunday's Penn State Invitational to make a splash on the national scene. The Penn wrestling team felt confident Sunday heading into the Penn State Open that it could use the tournament as a stepping stone for the Midlands Tournament -- Penn's major mid-season test next month in Chicago. All-American senior Brandon Slay (177) encountered more difficulty than usual, finishing a disappointing second to Mike Greenfield of Central Michigan. After dominating his competition in the early rounds with 9-2 and 15-0 victories, Slay advanced to the finals with a 4-2 victory over Navy's Greg Gingeleskie. In the finals, Greenfield wrestled defensively, keeping the aggressive Slay away. The match went to overtime tied 1-1, and Greenfield took the match on what Slay thought was a questionable call. "It didn't bother me that badly because the guy really didn't beat me. He didn't earn the points he got through any type of wrestling technique," said Slay, visibly annoyed by the referee's call. Slay, however, did not place all the blame for the loss on the referee's shoulders. "If I would have pushed myself harder and taken advantage of some opportunities during the regulation part of the match, then [the match] would have never come down to a decision like that," Slay said. With all the attention surrounding Penn's nationally top-ranked wrestler, Slay knows he has to adjust to more intense competition. "Guys are extremely cautious when they wrestle me -- they stall a lot, they back up, and they don't really try to score points," Slay said. "They try to keep the match close so it can go into overtime and possibly something like [last Sunday] can happen." Penn coach Roger Reina cited Slay's increased visibility as a bit of a handicap. "They know the kinds of things he does to generate offense and he's very scouted," Reina said. "He needs to continually modify and develop to stay a step ahead of the film he's being scouted on." In part due to Slay's performance against the much taller Greenfield and the size advantage many 177-pound wrestlers have over the 5'8'' Slay, Penn's standout wrestler decided Sunday to take off weight and move back down to his accustomed 167-pound weight class for the remainder of the season. Quakers' captain senior Mark Piotrowsky (134) also turned in a second-place performance, following up his victory at the Keystone Classic two weeks ago. Piotrowsky entered the finals by defeating Virginia's Jason Mutarelli to win the Keystone Classic. In the championship match, Piotrowsky lost 10-4 to former All-American and sixth-ranked Shawn Enright of Ohio. "I was happy with the way I performed, but you always want to win," Piotrowsky said. "I've got high expectations for Mark," Reina said. "It was good experience for him, wrestling people that have placed in the NCAA Championships, and its going to give him more confidence when he gets there." For the third time in as many tournaments, senior Steve Walker won at 126 pounds. Walker beat Virginia's Steve Garland 7-6 to take the tournament title, but felt unsatisfied after the day was done. He was looking forward to wrestling Penn State's 10th-ranked Jason Betz, who lost in the quarter finals due to an injury. "I didn't get to wrestle my main competitor, but it was fun," Walker said. Walker continued his reign over the 126-pound weight class. He has not lost a tournament so far this season. "Steve had a good gut-check match in the finals where he fell behind," Reina said. "He did one of the things that a champion has to do, which is come from behind." In addition to the veterans' finishes, several younger wrestlers added solid performances. Freshmen Justin Bravo (118) and Yoshi Nakamura (150) placed seventh and eighth, respectively, while sophomore Tim Ortman (150) -- fresh off the lightweight football season -- placed fourth. Freshman Rick Springman (158) also added a third-place finish in only his third collegiate tournament. A "freshman mistake," according to Reina, set Springman back, but he rebounded to win his third-place match 10-2. "Rick Springman's come on great," Slay said. "I think that he's learning really fast for a freshman." Overall, Reina was satisfied with his team's performance in its last tournament before the Midlands. "Our guys wrestled more aggressively," Reina said. "The things that we have been spending time on in practice -- both technically and in terms of intensity -- showed in the tournament." The Quakers continued to make steady improvements Sunday after beginning the year with second and first-place finishes at the Ivy Kickoff and the Keystone Classic. "Teamwise we are doing a great job of moving up the learning curve," Slay said. "I think we're doing a good job of taking the things we're learning and implementing them in practice." Penn needs the help of its improving youthful core to move up the national ladder at the Midlands, where the Quakers will encounter their toughest national competition to date.

Wrestling wants to be seen as a force

(12/05/97 10:00am)

At the Penn State Open, Penn wants to assert its national prominence. Penn wrestling coach Roger Reina puts little stock in tournament results. As his 14th-ranked Quakers head into the Penn State Open Sunday, he is not preoccupied with pretournament predictions. Rather, he is worrying about his team's focus and intensity. "More important than the outcome is how the team approaches training following the lessons learned in competition," Reina said. The Quakers have plenty to think about as they prepare for Penn St. First, Penn encounters 10th-ranked Penn St., a team that handed the Quakers a loss at the National Dual Meets last year. Penn came off a hard-fought, 16-16 tie to then-No. 4 Iowa State and performed "flat" against Penn St., according to Reina. Reina, however, is reluctant to over-emphasize one team's wrestlers out of the estimated 300 Sunday. "They're just another rung in the ladder for us," he said. Team captain Brandon Slay, who competes Sunday at 177 pounds in his third Penn St. Open, also downplays the revenge factor. "A lot of guys on the team weren't there for that dual," Slay said. "Because our team is young, I don't think that dual last year is representative of anything." Navy also provides a tough rung in Penn's ladder. Sunday marks one of the only opportunities the Quakers have to face Navy before the Eastern championships, which makes the head-to-head matchups with the Midshipmen all the more important for rankings and seedings. Individually for the Quakers, senior Steve Walker faces important competition at Penn St. He recently broke into the top 12 nationally in the 126-pound division. Walker gets a rematch against Penn St.'s 10th-ranked Jason Betz, to whom Walker lost at last year's National Duals. Senior captain Mark Piotrowsky also entered the national top 12, ranking 11th in the 134-pound division. Impressive showings at Penn St. will help Walker and Piotrowsky in their bids for All-American honors. Heavyweight junior Bandele Adeniyi-Bada runs into stiff competition from Navy's Colin Crickard, who is ranked ahead of Adeniyi-Bada in the East. Overall, Reina hopes his young team gains valuable match experience against more national competition Sunday. "I expect us to grow and have more solid, complete performances than we had two weeks ago [at the Keystone Classic]," Reina said. And, if tradition holds, "We'll grow a lot faster than the competition." Penn hopes that growth will give it a boost as it begins to enter bigger, and more nationally important tournaments, namely the Midlands Tournament and the National Dual Meets. "If we don't take our bumps and bruises now, we're never going to learn," Quakers freshman Yoshi Nakamura said. "I can definitely say I've been taking bumps and bruises along the way -- big ones. But each day I learn from that." After an intense week of practice and what Slay termed a "re-analyzing" of the team's goals of improved conditioning and increased physical competition, the Penn St. Open comes at a crucial point in the season for the young Quakers. They did not assert themselves as the truly dominant, national contender they want to be in their second-place finish at the Ivy Kickoff Classic and their narrow victory at the Keystone Classic.

No one 'kicks the crap' out of Slay anymore

(12/02/97 10:00am)

Penn senior wrestler Brandon Slay has dreams of participating in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Don't ask Brandon Slay to talk about his Olympic dreams. Don't ask him to talk about his impending stay at the Freestyle Wrestling Residence Program at Colorado Springs, Colo., which may lead to a trip with the U.S. Olympic Wrestling team to Sydney, Australia, and the 2000 Olympic Games. For now, Slay is content to focus on winning another Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association title, returning to the NCAA finals and leading Penn to a role as a national contender. Ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the 167-pound division in different preseason polls, Slay opened his season by winning the Keystone Classic November 23, and he is confident going into the Penn State Open this weekend. His dominating presence on the mat began a long way from either Pennsylvania or Australia. Growing up in Amarillo, Texas, his father, who wrestled in high school and college, placed him in a YMCA wrestling class when he was 6 years old. "I was a rough and tumble kid, full of energy, somewhat hyperactive, and he felt that wrestling would be a good way for me to let out all that extra energy," Slay said. "[My father] was familiar with it, he really loved the sport, and he thought it was something I would enjoy, and I ended up loving it." Slay continued wrestling throughout his youth, often having to wrestle kids much older and bigger than he. "They used to kick the crap out of me all the time, but eventually as I started maturing, getting stronger and learning more about the sport, I caught up with them," he said. At Tascosa High School, he excelled in wrestling and football, in which he played both nose guard and offensive guard. Senior year brought a difficult decision for Slay, who had to decide which sport to pursue at the college level. Slay had mixed feelings about the choice between wrestling and football. He actually believed himself to be a much better football player than a wrestler. "I thought wrestling was the one that I could excel more individually at," Slay said, "and I thought it was going to give me a chance to go to a better school." Heavily recruited by a number of schools for wrestling, including powerhouses Iowa, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, Slay chose Penn, in part due to its high academic standards. Slay also looked forward to the opportunity to join a team on the rise. Being the leader of a program starting a turnaround meant a lot to Slay -- more than being just another face in a long line of champions at a traditional powerhouse. "It was a program that was coming from really little to no success, but I could see that it had a chance for a bright future," he said. And a bright future it is for the Quakers, who ranked 14th in the nation in this year's Amateur Wrestling News preseason poll. Slay, a fifth-year senior, found adjusting to the college level hard at first, encountering consistently tough competition every time out on the mat. "Every time you step out on the mat, you're going to wrestle somebody who has a lot of experience with the sport," Slay said. "So rarely do you go out there and pin the guy in 30 seconds." Slay has had much collegiate success, topped off by a second-place finish last year at the NCAA finals. He credits a healthy balance of athletic, academic and social life. "Being able to relax and be focused is the most important part of my wrestling," Slay said. His success has put him in the position of the hunted one throughout the wrestling ranks, but Slay remains unphased. "Now that I've achieved that level of success, guys are looking to beat me all the time, and I have to concentrate on making sure I don't get wrapped up in all [the rankings]. I just go out there and focus on doing what I know how to do," he said. Slay, a returning captain, brings unmatched intensity and a fierce work ethic to the mats. "He's an extremely intense competitor and a great leader," Penn senior Jeremy Bailer said. "He already started off by leading the team [at the Keystone Classic]." Slay, as captain, acts as a leader for the team, in and out of the wrestling room. Bailer has seen Slay's growth as a team leader in his four years at Penn. "[Slay] has accomplished more than anyone else, but he doesn't put himself above anyone," Bailer said. "He takes time out to help out other wrestlers. [The success] doesn't go to his head." After college, Slay heads off to Colorado Springs, where he will train for a year and a half for the Olympic trials in January 2000. After that he says he will retire from wrestling and enter the business world, perhaps after a detour to Sydney.

Wrestling bests Rider, wins Keystone Classic

(11/24/97 10:00am)

The word "palestra" means "house of wrestling" in ancient Greek. This weekend, Penn's Palestra was indeed a wrestling house. The Penn wrestling team welcomed six nationally respected teams, Rider, Virginia, Wyoming, Army, American and Seton Hall, to West Philadelphia yesterday to compete in the Keystone Classic. Getting their first test of national-level competition, the Quakers edged Rider, taking the tournament by a score of 131.5 to 129. After finishing a disappointing second to Cornell at the Ivy League Kickoff Classic last weekend, the victory serves as a validation for the Quakers, who entered the season with a preseason ranking of 14th in the country by Amateur Wrestling News. "[The Kickoff Classic] made this tournament all the more important for us," said Penn senior captain Brandon Slay, who won the 177-pound division. "It was a good slap in the face for us going into this tournament." The victory was anything but certain for Penn, which trailed Rider going into the final round of competition. Penn needed victories in its matches at the 177, 190 and the heavyweight divisions in order to steal the win from Rider. Fortunately for the Quakers, Slay beat Rider's Leo Giel in the title match, and in third-place bouts Mike Fickell (190) defeated Rider's Shawn Scannell and Bandele Adeniyi-Bada (275) defeated Rider's Joe Klein. Penn also benefitted from wins by captain Mark Piotrowsky (134) and Steve Walker (126). Piotrowsky, who came into the tournament as the third seed, defeated both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds on his way to the title. "Beating [first-seeded Jason Mutarelli of Virginia] was a good win in the finals," Piotrowsky said. "He'd beaten me last year at this tournament." The win had another element of redemption for Piotrowsky, who came off a disappointing loss to rival Dustin DeNunzio of Harvard at the Kickoff Classic. "I had to show I could come back from a letdown, and I wasn't going to stay down," Piotrowsky said. Walker, fresh off a tournament triumph last weekend, continued his winning ways, besting All-American John Carvalheira of Rider 3-1 in the finals. Penn's youth showed yesterday that it is quickly maturing. Freshmen Rick Springman (158) and Justin Bravo (118) both turned in second-place finishes for the Quakers. Sophomore James Brennan (126) and freshman Yoshi Nakamura (150) finished fourth and fifth in their divisions, respectively. "The freshmen are getting introduced to some real good competition," said Slay, who stressed the need for more experience. "You can't come in as a freshman and expect to dominate experienced college wrestlers." "There are only better things to come [from the younger wrestlers]," Brennan said. "The recruiting class speaks for itself (ranked 11th in the nation) and the summer weightlifting program got the sophomore class together." The younger members of the team were helped by the presence of All-American Slay and veteran Fickell, who competed in their first tournaments of the year. "[Slay] is a key for our team," Walker said. "He's the most successful guy on the team, so it's always good to have him in the lineup, plus his leadership ability." Penn coach Roger Reina agreed. "Certainly having those two back in the lineup was an opportunity to take a step towards where we ultimately want to be," Reina said. With its tournament victory over teams from many different conferences across the country, Penn rebounded from its Ivy League disappointment to attain national-level success. But the Quakers are not satisfied yet. "We're taking steps in the right direction," Piotrowsky said. "We're not quite where we want to be, but we're getting there fast."

Young Penn wrestlers struggle, fall to Cornell

(11/18/97 10:00am)

Missing key veteran wrestlers and two team captains, the No. 14-ranked Penn wrestling team entered the Ivy League Kickoff Classic at Princeton, N.J., Saturday knowing its fate rested on the shoulders of a younger, inexperienced core. Without the services of All-American captain Brandon Slay, due to future tournament obligations, and the injured captain Andrei Rodzianko and junior Brett Matter, the Quakers sent 18 athletes with a combined three years of starting experience to New Jersey. They finished a disappointing second, behind Cornell. Steve Walker and Bandele Adeniyi-Bada made the most of their time in the spotlight, taking individual titles in the 126-pound and heavyweight divisions. Walker, a second-team All-Ivy selection last year, started this season with an emphatic note, dominating his three competitors on the way to the title -- not giving up a point until the final round. Walker's opponents, wary of his ability and ranking, tried to frustrate him by using defensive tactics, but Walker rolled into the finals where he defeated teammate James Brennan, 5-3. Brennan made it an all-Penn final after defeating Cornell's Nate Rupp, who is ranked No. 2 in the East. "Walker handled [his opponents' tactics] really well," Penn coach Roger Reina said. "He entered the competition with the mindset of a champion, and it came out that way." Adeniyi-Bada overwhelmed his heavyweight competition, winning the title in his first tournament as a starter with a 17-2 technical fall victory over Harvard's Rob Durbin. "In the championship match, I just needed to step it up and build up from the wins," Adeniyi-Bada said. "It was just [a matter of] doing the extra whatever to win it." The 275-pound junior focused on the mental aspects in his preliminary matches, but put in all together for an impressive showing in the final. "He looked awesome in the finals," Penn captain Mark Piotrowsky said. "He showed lots of confidence in himself." Piotrowsky (134) and freshman Rick Springman (158) earned second-place finishes for the Quakers, along with Brennan. Piotrowsky lost in the final round to Harvard's Dustin DiNunzio in a highly anticipated match between the 15th- and ninth-ranked wrestlers in the nation at 134 pounds. However, the match fell short of expectations, as DiNunzio caught Piotrowsky with a good move and pinned him just 1:36 into the match. "A match so many anticipated never really happened, just a minute and a half of a seven-minute match" Reina said. "But they have several chances to meet again." Springman performed well in his first collegiate competition, defeating the highest nationally ranked wrestler at the Kickoff Classic, Brown's defending Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association champion Tivon Abel, before falling in the finals to Harvard's Joey Killar, 13-7. "He showed a lot of mental toughness and that he doesn't want to take a back seat to anyone," said Reina. The Quakers had four wrestlers take third place in their divisions, Jason Nagle (118), Jon Gough (142), Yoshi Nakamura (150) and Ryan Slack (177). Although the Red and Blue hoped to open their season on a higher note, they do not view Saturday's second-place finish negatively. "Yes, we wanted to win, but at the same time, we didn't have several key veteran athletes and still felt we had the ability to win despite of that," Reina said. With some of the veterans out of action, the young team proved it could compete with the best the Ivy League has to offer, despite its inexperience.

Wrestling ready to 'kick off' 1997-98 season vs. Ivies

(11/14/97 10:00am)

For the Penn wrestling team, taking on its Ivy League opponents is a bit like taking on the Vancouver Grizzlies for the Chicago Bulls. Sure, every game is important, but they've got bigger fish to fry. That's not to say that the Quakers are overlooking their Ivy brethren. Saturday's Kickoff Classic at Princeton is the first test for the Red and Blue, ranked No. 14 in the nation, and features tough competition at 118, 126 and 134 lbs. Penn is also heading to New Jersey without key veteran wrestlers, including junior Brett Matter (142) and senior captains Brandon Slay and Andrei Rodzianko. Matter is sidelined with a season-threatening injury, and Rodzianko (190) still needs several weeks to recuperate from surgery. Slay (177), ranked No. 2 in the nation in his weight class, may be invited to a national all-star tournament later in the year. Because wrestlers are allowed a limited number of tournament appearances, Slay will keep that opportunity open by sitting out the Kickoff Classic. Despite missing these key leaders, Slay remains confident in his team's ability to win. "We're extremely confident, and we will remain confident throughout the season," Slay said. "Especially when it comes to Ivy League opponents." Penn's main competition comes at 134 lbs., where 15th-ranked senior captain Mark Piotrowsky encounters resistance from Harvard's ninth-ranked Dustin DiNunzio. Also competing at 134 is Cornell's talented sophomore, Ben New. Tomorrow brings Piotrowsky's first match play in a year, as he sat out last season with an injury. Piotrowsky says the injury will not pose a problem and that he is at "100 percent." At 118 pounds, Penn juniors Jason Nagle and Randall Braunfeld have to deal with three of the top four ranked wrestlers in the East, Brown's Peter Moretta, Cornell's Aaron Taylor and Harvard's James Butera. The Quakers also are looking for a big tournament at 126 pounds from senior Steve Walker, who finished last season with a strong performance in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships and whose "performance in training has been excellent," according to Penn coach Roger Reina. Penn looks to use this tournament as an indication of its progress through the preseason and where it stands as a team. "It's a good gauge to judge how our focus and work ethic are going so far," Slay said. "We'll see if the guys [accomplish] the team goals of being physical and being in better shape and conditioning than the competition." The tournament also gives the younger wrestlers a chance to get match experience right off the bat. "[The Kickoff Classic] is a real opportunity for younger athletes to begin to make their mark within the league and for the veterans to take control and dominate their particular weight group," Reina said. "It's different mindset for competition, and [the younger wrestlers] are excited to take that step." Freshman starters Yoshi Nakamura and Rick Springman get their first taste of college action tomorrow, competing at 150 and 158 lbs. Piotrowsky hopes Nakamura and Springman, as well as the other inexperienced members of the team, can take their training room toughness to the mats at Princeton. "[As a captain], I want to show them how to go after people and break their opponents so they just own him," Piotrowsky said. "I want to set an example and get them to follow." Even though the Quakers are setting their sights nationally, they still recognize the importance of this weekend. "We're not looking past them or taking them lightly," Piotrowsky said. "We need to set the tone for the Ivy League [and show] that even though we graduated lots of starters, we won't be rebuilding this year." For Penn, an impressive finish at the Kickoff Classic would go a long way toward establishing itself as the Ivy title front-runner. But the Quakers have bigger goals. "We want to do more than [win the Ivy League]," Slay said. "We want to be a national wrestling powerhouse, so that when someone steps on the mat against a Penn wrestler, they know they're in for a fight."

SEASON PREVIEW: Wrestling doesn't need improvement for success

(11/12/97 10:00am)

With three Eastern titles in three years, Penn's program has become the regional wrestling superpower. The 1997-98 Penn wrestling team has a tough act to follow. Coming off its third Ivy League championship in four years, the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) championship, and an appearance in the NCAA championships by eight of their 10 starters, the 14th-ranked Quakers are poised to make a splash on the national scene. "Some aspects of last season may be difficult to top, but we still aim to do that," said Penn coach Roger Reina, who graduated from Penn in 1984. "We had only one All-American (senior captain Brandon Slay), and [this year] we hope to come away with multiple All-Americans." The Quakers also hope they can improve on their final rank of 15th in the nation and their 23rd-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The first obstacle Penn has to overcome is the loss of five of last year's eight EIWA finalists to graduation. "This year we've got a good deal of intensity with a younger team, whereas we had a veteran crew last year," Reina said. "We're trading off experience but gaining enthusiasm. For a lot of individuals, it's their chance to step up." One individual Penn was counting on to step into the forefront, junior Brett Matter, is injured and may be out the entire season. The Quakers will miss Matter, who is rated No. 4 in the nation at 142 lbs. and finished in the round of 12 at last year's NCAA tournament. Reina declined to specify Matter's injury, fearing opponents will exploit it in the future. Reina relies on his three captains, Slay, senior Mark Piotrowsky and junior Andrei Rodzianko, to lead the team through the setbacks. "Their most important role as captains is to lead by example in training and competition," said Reina. "They need to help lead the younger group to understand what it takes to be successful at this level." All-American Slay comes off a spectacular 1996-97 season. Slay was named Ivy League Wrestler of the Year after winning the EIWA title and placing second at the NCAA Championships. "[As a captain], Slay brings a fiercely competitive nature and the success he's had at the national level for many years," Reina said. "He takes pride in establishing Penn wrestling nationally." Piotrowsky, who sat out last year with an injury, was an NCAA qualifier and an EIWA finalist two years ago. Piotrowsky enters the 1997-98 campaign ranked 15th in the nation at 134 lbs. "He's a quiet leader," Reina said. "He's intense in training and sets an excellent example." At 190 lbs., the eighth-ranked Rodzianko brings both intense physical and mental toughness to the mats. After sitting out eight weeks last year with an injury, he came back to win the EIWA title. The Quakers are also counting on senior Steve Walker at 126 lbs. Walker narrowly missed the NCAAs, placing third in the EIWAs. On paper, Penn's recruiting class is its best ever, ranked 11th nationally. Two freshmen, Yoshi Nakamura and Rick Springman, have won starting jobs already at 150 and 158, respectively. "Both have successful prep backgrounds and are determined to make their names quickly," Reina said. With the new recruits and the veteran performers, Penn is in a prime position to establish itself as a national power. The Quakers get that chance against plenty of tough competition in their fall and winter tournaments. "It is important for the group to capitalize on the tournament experience quickly, because the competition steps up to three very high peaks in December," said Reina, referring to the Midlands Open at Northwestern, regarded as the top collegiate tournament in the country, the Reno Tournament of Champions and the National Dual Meet Championships at Iowa. At these three tournaments, Penn will encounter nearly half of all 1997 Division I All-Americans. The coming weeks are critical for the Quakers, who continue their rigorous, five-days-a-week training program. They must establish team chemistry and gain quick experience in their first few tournaments. "The chemistry of this year's team has yet to take shape, given the high turnover, but it will be built out of competitive experience and, more importantly, out of the group's reaction in their training," Reina said.

Golf rebounds in fall season finale at Lehigh

(10/21/97 9:00am)

Two weeks ago the Penn golf team got a reality check. Coming off a par-70 team-record score of 283 at the St. John's Invitational, the Quakers competed in the Robert Morris Colonial Classic at Montour Heights Country Club in Moon Township, Pa., with high expectations. They were, to say the least, disheartened by their fourth-place finish. Playing a difficult, hilly course, the Penn golfers did not bring their best stuff to Robert Morris, posting a two-day score of 624 (307-317), well over the team's 600 barometer. After the subpar outing, coach Francis Vaughn downplayed comparing his team's scores to other teams' scores. "Francis made a point to get our minds off how our fall was going," Penn captain Adam Bradshaw said. "Our mindset going into [the Lehigh Invitational] was shooting our best and not worrying about where we scored in the district." Down, but certainly not out, the Quakers rebounded last weekend with their second tournament title at the Lehigh Invitational. Rob Goldfaden, who took the individual title with a 146 (76-70), said, "We'd been doing so well up to that point, we couldn't get down [on ourselves]." Goldfaden, whose previous best had been a third-place finish at St. John's, started his tournament play slowly, four-putting the first hole for a double bogey. He regained his composure and finished the first day with a 76, leaving him in position to make a run at the leaders. On Sunday he came out blazing, shooting a two under par 70 to take the tournament by one stroke. Goldfaden credited Vaughn for his turnaround. "[Vaughn] spent three hours working with me after the first round," Goldfaden said. "He told me to finish my shots and not to let up on any swing." Despite his individual success, Goldfaden placed the emphasis on the team's win. He said, "It made me happier that the team won; that was perfect." Still, his teammates were quick to sing the praise of the sophomore, who, as a freshman, was an All-Ivy selection and whose scores have steadily improved throughout the fall season, from a 27th-place finish at the Army Invitational to last weekend's win. "Goldy has been the player of the fall," Bradshaw said. "He's a unique competitor with a unique swing, a team player, and a very talented golfer." Goldfaden himself cited experience, especially on regional courses, as a major factor in his growth as a golfer. "I've matured a lot. Last year I was getting used to college and playing golf on a college level," Goldfaden said. "Golf in the Northeast is more difficult than anywhere else in the country." The triumph at Lehigh ended Penn's fall golf season on a high note. The win gives the Quakers a big swing of momentum and a boost of confidence after the shaky performance at Robert Morris. "[Finishing strong] leaves a good taste in your mouth," Owens said. The Red and Blue defeated Ivy rivals Princeton, Cornell and Columbia, as well as district contender St. John's at Lehigh, which bodes well for both their chances at an Ivy title and at a spot in the NCAA regional tournament this spring. The Quakers will use their time off in the winter to hit plenty of balls, to work out and to prepare mentally for the spring season.

Golf sets school record at S. John's Invitational

(10/07/97 9:00am)

What a difference a day makes. After one day of competition at the St. John's Invitational, the Penn golf team found itself 11 strokes behind leader St. John's and, worse, one stroke behind its main Ivy League rival, Princeton. Coming off a team score of 298, the Quakers torched the Long Island, N.Y., course on Sunday, finishing the second round with a 283, the lowest score in Penn golf history. The record score gave the Quakers a 581 for the tournament, placing them second behind the host Red Storm and three strokes ahead of Princeton. "With Princeton beating us the first day, that added some incentive," Penn coach Francis Vaughn said. "There's definitely a rivalry there. The guys like to beat Princeton." With the victory over the Tigers, the Quakers have now defeated every Ivy opponent they have encountered this year, including defending conference champion Yale and Dartmouth, a solid contender this season. "It's getting to the point where we're pretty well-respected," said Rob Goldfaden, who led the Quakers with a personal-best third-place finish (71-71-142), two strokes behind the leaders. "When they see University of Pennsylvania in the field, they have to look out." For the first time this season, Penn placed four golfers in the top 13. Brian Owens finished seventh (77-68-145) and team captain Adam Bradshaw (77-70-147) and Kyle Moran (73-74-147) tied for 13th. Rounding out the scoring for the Quakers, Christopher Kyrle finished 35th with a cumulative score of 153 (79-74). "It was the first time the team played well together," Vaughn said. "All five scores [in the second round] were under 75." The record performance took an all-around team effort. Goldfaden set the pace for Penn, going four under par after six holes on Saturday. "I was happy with the way [I started]," said Goldfaden, a former American Junior Golf Association All-American. "It was a really important tournament. I wanted to do real well. I gave it everything I could, and what happened happened." "Rob's had a lot of good rounds, but this was the first time he went low and repeated it," Bradshaw said. "He really came through." In addition to Goldfaden, Owens and Moran also improved their games, following up top-10 performances two weekends ago at Army. "[Owens] has the ability to make that score all the time," Goldfaden said. "It's a confidence-builder for him and the rest of the team." "[Moran] is 'Mr. Consistency'," Bradshaw said. "You can always rely on him to come through with a good score." The rising of the supporting cast came at an opportune time for the Quakers, who played on the Bethpage Red Course, the site of the Ivy championships in the spring. "Adam's always shooting the best," Goldfaden said. "Here we see that everyone else can shoot the best. It takes some of the pressure off his shoulders." Bradshaw sees the support as a welcome, but mixed, blessing. "It's a relief, but in another way it's more pressure," he said. "I've waited three years to have my teammates beating me," Bradshaw said. "If you're not playing well, it's personally frustrating. I need to play well for it all to come together." The depth and success displayed at Bethpage bode well for the Quakers, who will need a repeat performance on the Red Course to win the Ivy crown.

Golf glimpses Ivies' title course

(10/02/97 9:00am)

Two weeks after winning its first tournament of the year at Army, the Penn golf team heads back to New York to compete in the St. John's Invitational this weekend. The trip marks the most important test yet for the Quakers, as they will face their toughest competition of the year and, more important, will get their first taste of the Bethpage Red Course, the site of the Ivy Championships in the spring. The Quakers traditionally play the Bethpage Black Course, but since the Black Course is closed in preparation for the 2001 U.S. Open, the tournament will be held on the untested Red Course. "We'll see how the team plays the course," Penn junior Brian Owens said. "We've always done well on the Black Course, so hopefully we can translate that into success on the Red Course." The long, par-70 course was designed by A.W. Tillanghast, called by Penn coach Francis Vaughn, "one of the best course designers out there." Penn has had experience with Tillanghast courses, however. He designed Penn's home course at the Pennsylvania Cricket Club. Today's first practice round at Bethpage's narrow, tree-lined course is "critically important" for the Quakers, according to Vaughn. "It enables us to see the golf course's strengths and weaknesses." Vaughn hopes the practice will help the team's course management. "Especially since no one has seen the golf course, [course management] helps you to maximize what you do well and minimize mistakes, playing away from trouble." "We'll try to get as many practice rounds in as we can," said Owens, who placed fourth at West Point. "Hopefully it will show us how much accuracy we'll need." After defeating Ivy rivals Yale, Brown and Columbia two weeks ago at Army, the Quakers run up against tough competition from Princeton and other East Coast powerhouse schools like host St. John's. "[St. John's] beat all the teams we beat at Army," Vaughn said. "They have a great advantage because they're the only team to play the course." Although Penn is confident after second- and first-place finishes in its previous two tournaments, Vaughn is wary of overconfidence. "In watching the Ryder Cup, some of the guys can see what overconfidence can do to you," said Vaughn, referring to the heavily favored American team's loss to the Europeans. Still, the only opponent the Penn is worried about is themselves. All competition aside, Penn is looking to the St. John's Invitational as a tune-up for its eventual goal of an Ivy Championship.

Golf takes lead and never looks back

(09/23/97 9:00am)

Any golf pro will say that the follow-through is crucial. The Penn golf team followed through with its goals last weekend at the Army Invitational, winning the tournament on the heels of its second-place finish at the Cornell/Colgate Invitational a week ago. The Quakers played 36 holes Saturday, finishing six strokes ahead of the pack (601, 300-301). When play resumed with 18 more holes on Sunday, the Red and Blue shot a 309 to take the tournament by seven stokes over second-place finisher Central Connecticut State. Erratic weather provided an extra challenge for the Quakers. After 80-degree temperatures on Saturday, Sunday brought temperatures dipping into the 40s. "Even though we were ahead by six on Saturday, we didn't play as well Sunday," Penn coach Francis Vaughn said. "The scores sort of reflected [the change in temperature]. We were fortunate to have the lead that we did after two rounds." Individually, Adam Bradshaw (77-70-74, 221) and Brian Owens (72-74-78, 224) placed third and fourth, respectively. Regarding his top two finishers, Vaughn said, "That's why [Adam] is one of the top players in the district. Brian didn't play well in the first tournament. He just started hitting the ball better in practice and got his confidence up." Kyle Moran (77-77-77, 231) also finished in the top 10, placing eighth. Last weekend's victory came against a tougher field of teams than at Cornell/Colgate. The competition included Ivy rivals Columbia, Brown and Yale, in addition to other schools from the Northeast like Providence, Boston College and Holy Cross. After losing to Yale by one stroke in last year's Ivy finals, defeating several Ivy schools this weekend was a taste of revenge. "Playing at Cornell/Colgate was good preparation to play against a better field. We got all the kinks out," Vaughn said. According to Vaughn, rivalries did not need to be played up to inspire his team to victory. "The guys just go out there and play. They know how important every tournament is. I don't have to get them motivated to go play golf." The win at Army comes at an important point in the season for the Quakers, who travel to St. John's in two weeks to compete against their toughest field yet on the course which will hold the Ivy Championships later in the year. "[Other teams] know we have a good team and that they have to play well in order to compete with us," Vaughn said. "Confidence is the cornerstone of doing well in any athletic competition. Positive thinking won't let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will." After steadily improving results against steadily improving fields, the Quakers can't help but feel confident about their chances.

Second-year coach Vaughn revitalizes golf program

(09/18/97 9:00am)

Penn's golf team won more tournaments in Francis Vaughn's first season than it played the year before. After criss-crossing the world from South Africa to Asia, Francis Vaughn's travels took him to West Philadelphia one year ago. He had spent the previous three years globe-trotting as a member of the PGA Qualifying Tour, but he put his quest for success as a pro golfer on hold to take the reigns as coach of the Penn golf team. When he arrived last year, he knew he had some work ahead of him, rebuilding a program that lacked leadership and had only been reinstated as a varsity sport in 1993. However, during his short tenure at Penn, Vaughn, whose team travels to New York for the Army Invitational Saturday, has taken the Quakers from an almost non-entity to a legitimate challenger for the Ivy League crown. "The program when I got here was in a form of disarray," Vaughn said. "There was no coach per se, and the kids didn't really have any direction. There were 12 individuals going 12 different ways." To combat this lack of team unity, Vaughn instituted a more structured practice schedule with the help of a new indoor facility, complete with a carpet and a putting green. He also upgraded the tournament schedule, more than doubling the number and quality of tournaments in which the Quakers played. In addition to physical adjustments, Vaughn also stressed the need for mental and philosophical changes. Vaughn set down three rules for his team to follow -- do what is right, do the best you can and treat others as you wish to be treated. "[The rules] are the cornerstone for what our team is based on and generate a sense of togetherness," Vaughn said. "Those three golden rules I live by in golf, in school and in everyday life," Penn senior captain Adam Bradshaw said. "They're simple. Just living life by those rules makes it easy and can only do good for you." The attitude adjustment quickly brought about a tightly knit team, which placed in the top 10 in more tournaments last year than it played in 1995. The unity eventually spread off the golf course as well. "[The Penn golfers] spend a lot of time together outside of the golf course," Vaughn said. "We even had two teams run in the Penn Relays." Donned in knee socks and knickers and passing a golf club instead of the traditional baton, one golfer/relay team placed fourth in its heat. Vaughn said that giving Penn golf a direction was not as hard as it seemed. "Because [the team] didn't have an ultimate goal, it was easy to give them the three values," he said. "I've really been able to start from square one and build a program around the players that I have." Although Penn's turnaround coincided with Vaughn's arrival, he does not take all the credit. He said that a main source of team policy was the players themselves. One such player-spurred initiative was a spring golfing trip to gear up for the impending season. Another reason Vaughn cites for the newfound cohesion and success is Bradshaw's leadership. Vaughn called Bradshaw's main task as team captain "leading by example." As a junior last year, Bradshaw won three individual tournament titles and kicked off this year with a second-place finish at the Cornell/Colgate Invitational last weekend. "I try to make playing on the team as easy as possible," Bradshaw said. "I know what it takes to compete and do well. Also, I try to help underclassmen compete because the transition is rough, particularly for the freshmen." Despite the growing successes of the Red and the Blue on the golf course, Vaughn maintains an effort to balance sports and life. "I try not to make it just golf," he said. "I want to get [each golfer] to be the best person he can be." "[Vaughn] knows from his own experience that life isn't just about beating everyone," Bradshaw said. "[He says,] 'Life is about learning, not succeeding'." The Quakers remain optimistic that progress will continue this weekend at Army. Vaughn gave a fitting metaphor for the Penn golf program's turnaround under his tenure. "On a hand you have five fingers each going five different places. But if you bring them together you form a very powerful fist," Vaughn said.

20th in 1996, Golf tees off in 1997 with second place result

(09/16/97 9:00am)

Led by team captain Andy Bradshaw's second-place finish, the Penn golf team opened its season in impressive fashion, placing second behind St. Bonaventure at the Cornell/Colgate Invitational last weekend in Ithaca, N.Y. The finish marked a major improvement for the squad, as it began last year with a 20th-place finish at Yale. Second-year Quakers coach Francis Vaughn cited improved players and a deeper unit as a reason for the growth. "The three new freshmen are a great asset," Vaughn said. "It makes qualifying for a tournament more difficult [within the team]." For most tournaments, a team can only take five golfers, which makes competition fierce among Penn's 12 golfers. All-Ivy selection Bradshaw shot a two-day total of 145 (75 Saturday, 70 Sunday), tying him with Lehigh's Phil Averbach at the end of regulation play. Averbach took the tournament on the first playoff hole with a bogey after Bradshaw found the water. Despite the team and individual successes, Bradshaw said, "We didn't do as well as we expected score-wise, but it was a good learning experience." Coming out a bit rusty after the summer break from competition, the team shot a first-day total of 307, but came back on Sunday with a 302 for a team total of 609, six shots off St. Bonaventure's winning mark of 603. Sophomore Rob Goldfaden topped off the top-10 scoring for Penn with his ninth-place 150 (75-75). Also participating for the Quakers were Kyle Moran (76-79-155), Brian Owens (81-78-159) and Christopher Kyrle (81-83-164). The Red and Blue hope to build off the promising start at what Vaughn termed "a better quality field" at the Army Invitational next weekend. Graduating only one senior from last year's Ivy runner-up squad, the team's outlook is positive. "We have the ability to win every tournament we play in our district," Bradshaw said.