PHILADELPHIA A pair of matinees at The Palestra are on the docket for Penn over the next two days as the #25-ranked Quakers host Columbia at 2 p.m. on Friday before a very important 1 p.m. match with #15 Cornell on Saturday. Friday’s match can be found online via the Penn Sports Network, while Saturday’s match is being taped by CSTV for airing on Monday, February 18 at 8 p.m. In addition, the first 200 fans to arrive at The Palestra on Saturday will receive a complimentary Penn drawstring backpack.
Friday’s match with the Lions is set up with a measure of revenge for the Quakers. Columbia defeated the Quakers, 22-12, in New York last season in an upset of the #13-ranked Red and Blue. While only three men who suited up for Penn that day will be in action today, it doesn’t mean the newcomers to the lineup don’t remember what it felt like to lose that day.
Another element of excitement added to the match will be the return of two-time NCAA Champion Matt Valenti as an assistant coach with Columbia. Valenti, the most decorated wrestler in Penn history will be looking to one-up his former mentor, Zeke Jones.
“It will be fun to have Matt back,” Jones said. “No matter where he goes and what he does, he will always be part of the Penn family. Rest assured, I know how much of a competitor Matt is. There is no doubt in my mind that he will have his guys ready to compete.”
The Lions are 4-5 on the season, including losses to #21 Maryland and #15 Cornell. Columbia only returns two wrestlers who were part of the upset in the Big Apple last season seniors Brandon Kinney (125 lbs.) and Nick Sommerfield (197 lbs.). Kinney is 20-5 on the season, and his match with #8 Rollie Peterkin should be a pivotal one.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Quakers as they will be back on the mats Saturday afternoon in a match with Cornell. The two teams have combined for 19 solo Ivy League titles since 1987 and have shared two others. Cornell has taken the last five Ancient Eight crowns.
“It is going to be a lot of fun,” Jones said as his team practiced Thursday afternoon. “I expect a lot of energy, both from our team and the home crowd. There is no need to hype this rivalry, the guys will be ready.”
A total of nine nationally-ranked wrestlers will be in action Saturday. The only match featuring two ranked opponents will be at 165 pounds, where #17 Zack Shanaman takes on #4 Mack Lewnes. Other top-20 wrestlers from Penn are #8 Peterkin and #13 Cesar Grajales (149 lbs.). The Big Red will start #2 Mike Grey (133 lbs.), #9 Jordan Leen (157 lbs.), #10 Steve Anceravage (174 lbs.), #11 Josh Arnone (184 lbs.) and #11 Zach Hammond (Hwt.).
A quick glance at Cornell’s team record shows them under .500 at 4-5. However, a closer look shows that one would be hard-pressed to find a team with losses to more quality opponents. The Big Red’s five losses this season have come against #1 Iowa, #9 Penn State (twice), #11 Missouri and #13 Wisconsin.
“Their team record is not really reflective of how good they are,” Jones said. “They are very, very good. The depth they have up and down their lineup is impressive. Between the three returning All-Americans and the two freshmen they have ranked in the top-four, it is almost like they have five All-Americans.”
Jones was not conceding the match.
“They are beatable,” he continued. “The weights we are strong at, they aren’t as strong. I feel like we are peaking right now and are ready for a challenge of this level. Also, never count out the Palestra Magic’. When you get a good crowd right on the mats like we will Saturday, and have all the alumni in the gym, it can act like an 11th man for us out there.”
The alumni that Jones referred to are the Grapplers Club, who will be celebrating their 70th anniversary on Saturday. Prior to the match, over seven decades of Penn wrestling will gather to celebrate the many years of success for Penn grapplers. The celebration will continue with a ceremony honoring those in attendance immediately prior to the match and will finish with the 2007 NCAA qualifiers being honored at halftime of Penn’s men’s basketball game Saturday night.
Here’s a look at the probable match-ups for both days:
#25 Penn (10-4) vs. Columbia (4-5)
Penn wrestlers in bold
125 lbs. - #8 Rollie Peterkin (21-2) vs. Brandon Kinney (20-5)
133 lbs. Bryan Ortenzio (13-13) or Phil Boyer (3-3) vs. Jerome Greco (5-16)
141 lbs. Rick Rappo (14-7) or Andrew Valenti (5-6) vs. Nick Standish (5-13)
149 lbs. - #13 Cesar Grajales (24-4) vs. Anthony Constantino (14-7)
157 lbs. Rob Hitschler (13-3) or Vincent Cina (6-6) vs. Matt Dunn (15-9)
165 lbs. - #17 Zack Shanaman (17-6) vs. Victor Mocco (6-8)
174 lbs. Scott Giffin (17-6) or Jeff Zannetti (10-5) vs. Travis Creagan (12-10)
184 lbs. Lior Zamir (17-7) vs. Kenji Porter (12-10)
197 lbs. Thomas Shovlin (8-4) or Colin Hitschler (9-4) vs. Nick Sommerfield (12-6)
Hwt. Trey McLean (16-8) or Tyler Blakely (6-4) vs. Jed Wade (8-4) or Ryan Flores (9-4)
#25 Penn (10-4) vs. #15 Cornell (4-5)
Penn wrestlers in bold
125 lbs. - #8 Rollie Peterkin (21-2) vs. Mike Rodriguez (14-9)
133 lbs. Bryan Ortenzio (13-13) vs. #2 Mike Grey (31-5)
141 lbs. Rick Rappo (14-7) vs. Nick Bridge (8-6) or Adam Frey (8-6)
149 lbs. - #13 Cesar Grajales (24-4) vs. D.J. Meagher (16-4)
157 lbs. Rob Hitschler (13-3) vs. #9 Jordan Leen (14-2)
165 lbs. - #17 Zack Shanaman (17-6) vs. #4 Mack Lewnes (28-3)
174 lbs. Scott Giffin (17-6) or Jeff Zannetti (10-5) vs. #10 Steve Anceravage (23-3)
184 lbs. Lior Zamir (17-7) vs. #11 Josh Arnone (2-0)
197 lbs. Thomas Shovlin (8-4) vs. Justin Kerber (20-9)
Hwt. Trey McLean (16-8) vs. #11 Zach Hammond (18-5)