CAMBRIDGE Penn headed up to Harvard on Friday night to open its Ivy slate in wrestling. The Quakers dropped two of the first three matches before winning the final seven bouts of the night for a 30-7 victory over the Crimson.
Appropriately enough, the match started with its most anticipated bout #2 J.P. O’Connor versus #14 Cesar Grajales at 149 pounds. The match lived up to its hype, with the two men only able to score one point between them. Unfortunately for the Quakers, the point was in favor of O’Connor he scored with an escape in the second period and was able to avoid a takedown from Grajales who was consistently attacking throughout the third period up until the buzzer.
“Cesar was all over him,” head coach Zeke Jones said after the match. “He was in control and was on the attack. I feel like Cesar made a statement that he should be mentioned with the top names in his weight class.”
Grajales felt after the bout that the result might be different the next time the two meet, possibly at the EIWA Championships in March.
“I really wanted to stay in attack mode and go after him,” the tri-captain of the Quakers said from the bus as Penn headed to Providence for Saturday’s meet with Brown. “I just didn’t get a takedown. I feel like I am right there with him and that if we see each other again down the road, he knows I can compete with him.”
Senior tri-captain Rob Hitschler followed at 157 pounds, defeating Bobby Latessa via decision, 4-2. It was a close bout that went right to the end, with Hitschler fighting off every attack from Latessa.
Following a major decision loss by Tom Timothy at 165 pounds, Penn was in a 7-3 hole and needed a win to regain momentum. Senior Jeff Zannetti did just that at 174 pounds, dominating his match en route to a 17-1 technical fall, adding five points to the Red and Blue’s score and giving them a lead they never relinquished.
Lior Zamir continued his solid senior season with a 2-0 win at 184 pounds. Zamir scored with an escape in the second period and rode his opponent, Fred Rowsey, out in the third to add the bonus point for the two-point victory.
“Lior is showing what being a senior captain and leader is all about,” Jones said. “He trained hard all week and didn’t let up because he had a match coming up. He knows that superior conditioning will be vital at EIWAs and hopefully NCAAs. He really understands what putting together a great season is all about.”
Colin Hitschler kept the Quakers’ momentum flowing with a win at 197 pounds, his first win at that weight. He defeated Jon Butler, 4-3, in a match that was not without controversy. Butler scored a takedown as time expired to apparently win the match, but it was determined that Harvard’s clock operator did not start the clock on time, and that the eight seconds that had been remaining after the last whistle had run off, rendering the takedown invalid. Hitschler’s lead of 4-3 stood and three more points were put on the board for Penn.
At heavyweight, Trey McLean defeated Andrew Knapp, 6-2, for his 15th win of the season.
#8 Rollie Peterkin kept things going for the Quakers with a 14-3 major decision over Dan Kelly. The major was Peterkin’s seventh of the season.
At 133 pounds, true freshman Bryan Ortenzio defeated Tommy Picarsic, 3-1, in sudden victory. Tied 1-1 entering the extra frame, Ortenzio scored a takedown to seal the win, his first collegiate overtime victory.
“I was getting good shots all match,” Ortenzio said post-bout. “Coach said to take the initiative in sudden-victory and that is what I did.” I gave him my best shot, and the fireman’s paid off. It is funny, because I worked on it all week in practice and it ended up winning the match.”
After the bout, his coach was proud of his young wrestler.
“Bryan was steady throughout the match and used his conditioning,” Jones said. “He was aggressive and his attitude prevailed.”
Jones then took time to talk about Ortenzio’s season as a freshman.
“Bryan has really come on for us. I know his record isn’t perfect, but the way he has matured as a true freshman is a testament to what kind of young man he is,” he said. “We knew he would help us this year. He is one of our hardest working kids. It can be tough for a freshman to grind through this long of a season, but he never stops. He is willing to learn and improve, which he needs to do as a freshman, but his desire to do so is why he is capable of winning tough overtime matches like he did tonight.”
Ortenzio agreed that his increased role as a freshman has refocused him on his goals and what he still has left to learn.
“I am very happy for this opportunity,” the first-year wrestler said. “It is great experience to have this many matches so early in my career. At first, I didn’t think much was expected of me because I was so young. Now I have the responsibility and that’s a great thing. It makes me work harder to keep my spot and start making some noise on the mats.”
The Quakers have little time for rest as they take the mats again on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Brown.