Wrestling Primed for 2012 NCAA Championships
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Brackets | ESPN3.com
Thursday, March 15: Session I (11 a.m.) and Session II (6:30 p.m.) ESPN3.com
Friday, March 16: Session III (10 a.m.) and Session IV (6 p.m.) ESPNU/ESPN3.com
Saturday, March 17: Session V (10 a.m.) ESPNU/ESPN3.com; Session VI (6:30 p.m.) ESPN, ESPN3.com
ST. LOUIS - The nation's best collegiate wrestlers converge on the Scottrade Center for three days this weekend, looking for NCAA hardware at the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships and the Penn Quakers have five entrants in the tournament, each looking to make a memory on the grandest stage of them all.
Head coach Rob Eiter has two seeded wrestlers set for action - No. 11 Micah Burak (197) and No. 12 Bryan Ortenzio (133) - and three other wrestlers primed to make noise as Penn looks to continue its upward climb in the team standings. Eiter's teams have improved seven spots from year to year over his three year tenure at Penn, and the 14 total spots moved up have the Quakers trending into the upper echelon of the nation's Division I wrestling programs.
If the Red and Blue are to replicate the jump once again, expect a lot of matches to be won by Burak, Ortenzio and Zack Kemmerer. The only three of Penn's wrestlers with prior NCAA Championships experience, each is a legitimate All-American candidate. Joining those three at the national tournament are first-time qualifiers Erich Smith (184) and Steve Robertson (149).
Burak is a three-time NCAA qualifier for the Quakers, and is seeded for the second consecutive year. In 2010, Burak reached the Round of 12 at 197 pounds - just one win shy of becoming an All-American. This year, Burak compiled a 19-4 overall record, with all four of his losses coming to NCAA qualifiers. A three-time EIWA Championships finalist, Burak is 9-15 all-time against entrants in the 197-pound field - with nine of those losses to perennial nemesis Cam Simaz of Cornell. Simaz is the No. 1 seed in the tournament, on the opposite side of the draw from Burak, and the two likely won't meet again unless it is very late in the tournament. Up first for Burak is unseeded Andrew Campolattano of Ohio State. Campolattano went 20-12 in his true freshman season for the Buckeyes, and entered the season as one of the most heralded recruits in the country after a 178-1 career as a high schooler in New Jersey where he won four state championships. The two have never met, but this will mark the third year in a row that Burak lines up against an Ohio State wrestler at the NCAA Championships. Last year, Burak opened his tournament with a 7-3 win over Peter Capone and in 2010, Burak was knocked out of the national meet via a 3-1 loss to Cody Magrum.
Penn first EIWA Champion since 2008, Bryan Ortenzio, enters his second NCAA Championships as the No. 12 seed at 133 pounds - his first career seed at the national tournament. 29-3 this season, Ortenzio is on an eight-match win streak and has gotten the win in 11 of his last 12 bouts. In his first trip to NCAAs, Ortenzio went 1-2 in 2010, and is looking to make a much deeper run in his final collegiate meet. All-time against wrestlers entered in the 133-pound field this week, Ortenzio is 8-5, and he went 7-3 against those wrestlers this season. Up first for Ortenzio on Thursday will be Central Michigan's Zach Horan. A true freshman, Horan went 15-11 this season, but enters the tournament on a roll after winning the MAC title. A Nazareth, Pa. native, Horan was the PIAA AAA state champion at 130 pounds last year and entered the season as the No. 17-ranked recruit in the country.
Returning All-American Zack Kemmerer is looking to duplicate his run to the podium in his final collegiate meet, and will enter the tournament unseeded after a 22-5 season. Eighth last year in Philadelphia, Kemmerer is competing in his third NCAA Championships and has a boatload of experience against the wrestlers in the field this week. Kemmerer is 19-9 in his 28 matches against qualifiers to the 2012 national tournament. This year, he went 9-5, including a 9-3 win over his first opponent, Evan Henderson of North Carolina. Kemmerer was the first wrestler to defeat Henderson this season, as Henderson went 10-0 to start his true freshman campaign before Kemmerer dominated at the Northeast Duals. A New Florence, Pa. native, Henderson has multiple wins over seeded wrestlers in the tournament but is coming off a 0-2 performance at the ACC Championships.
Senior Erich Smith rode a strong performance at the EIWA Championships to go from unseeded to a third-place finish and an automatic trip to his first national tournament. Smith is 19-16 this season, but won four matches in a row after his first round loss at EIWAs. Smith has had to navigate a tough schedule during the regular season, with 10 of his 16 losses coming to wrestlers entered in this tournament. One of those losses was a 5-2 decision to his opponent on Thursday, Kevin Radford of Arizona State. The two met at the Northeast Duals, one of 18 wins for Radford this season. Radford was an at-large selection following his fourth-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships and is making his first NCAA Championships appearance.
For the second time in three years, the Quakers will send a true freshman to the NCAA Championships after Steve Robertson earned an automatic bid at 149 pounds. 23-8 in his rookie campaign, Robertson went 3-5 against wrestlers entered in the NCAA field this week. He has not wrestled his first-round opponent, but the name is familiar to Penn wrestling fans - Eric Grajales. The No. 8 seed in the tournament, Grajales is the younger brother of former Penn standout Cesar Grajales W'09 and competes at Michigan. A redshirt junior, Grajales went 16-6 this season, and was a Round of 12 advancer last year in
Penn enters the 2012 NCAA Championships with 25 total All-Americans earned at the national tournament. Kemmerer became the 25th - and first at 141 pounds - last season, following up Scott Giffin's seventh-place finish at 174 in 2010. The Quakers have had at least one All-American in 12 of the last 14 NCAA Championships and have claimed five individual NCAA championships. The most recent national champion for the Quakers was current assistant coach Matt Valenti C'07 who went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.