#25 Wrestling Set for 104th EIWA Championships

Penn Wrestling Media Notes - 104th EIWA Championships

PHILADELPHIA – The 2008 EIWA Championships are this weekend in Lancaster, Pa. and the Penn Quakers will bring a squad that could feasibly place all ten wrestlers in a position to qualify for the NCAA Championships. 140 wrestlers from the 14 schools that comprise the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association will vie for 47 spots in the NCAA field. The top-four finishers at each weight class will gain automatic entry into the NCAA Tournament and seven wrestlers will earn wildcard berths based on selections made by the conference’s coaches.

As a team, Penn will be looking for its first EIWA Championship since 1999. The Quakers finished third to Cornell last season. Individually, Penn is on a streak of 12-straight years with at least one EIWA champion. In ten of those 12 seasons, the Red and Blue have had multiple champions. In total, the Quakers have seen 35 grapplers climb to the top of the podium at the conference tournament.

Lior Zamir, one of Penn’s tri-captains, has been here before. He qualified for the NCAAs after placing fifth at 184 lbs. last season. That is all in the past, though.

“I am not really thinking about 2007 anymore,” he said. “This is a new tournament and I need to focus on these matches, not what happened in the past.”

Head coach Zeke Jones calls the days leading up to the tournament the “calm before the storm” and realizes it is important to ensure his guys are prepared – mentally and physically – for the grind of a two-day tournament like EIWAs.

“We have prepared ourselves as best as possible,” Jones said Wednesday before practice. “The guys have wrestled in the toughest tournaments and against the toughest opponents. From the start of the season, the members of this team have done everything the right way to be ready for this weekend.”

He also knows a key component of success at the conference championships is peaking at the right time.

“It is important to harness our energy. We have made sure that the workouts the last two weeks have put the guys in position to excel without taxing their bodies and minds. All the work and doubles sessions throughout the season are designed to enable the wrestlers to perform well this weekend – and hopefully then at NCAAs.”

Jones hopes that his team brings a tenacious attitude to the mats at Franklin & Marshall this weekend.

“We are not going out there for experience, we are going for results,” he said. “I think we are capable of qualifying ten wrestlers to the national tournament. The team needs to know that those spots will not be handed to us. We need to go out there and earn them. We need to attack and be aggressive right from the start of the first match. That is what wins a conference crown.”

One weight class that should be appointment viewing is 165 pounds. The 2007 champion, Steve Anceravage of Cornell, has moved up a weight class, so the top spot is up for grabs. Four wrestlers are ranked in the top 20 of the latest NWCA/InterMat polls. That group is led by Cornell’s Mack Lewnes, who is ranked fourth as a freshman. American’s Mike Cannon was runner-up at 165 last season as a freshman and looks to take the next step in his sophomore season. Penn’s Zack Shanaman is ranked 18th and Bucknell’s Andy Rendos is 20th. These four comprise the top quartet in the EIWA seeding as well, but with a little shuffling. Cannon sits atop the EIWA polls just in front of Lewnes, and Rendos is third ahead of Shanaman.

Penn’s 165-pounder, a 2007 NCAA qualifier, is excited for the tournament to begin.

“This should be a very fun weekend,” Shanaman said. “A lot of the guys from last year are back and Lewnes has added a whole new dimension to the group. I feel that anyone could win. This is it. If you want your season to continue, you need to perform well at EIWAs. At the same time, I would recommend to the guys who are here for the first time that it is important to relax and have fun. That will take some of the pressure off.”

Jones mirrors Shanaman’s excitement over 165.

“It is really an impressive group of young men at that weight,” Jones said. “There are some veterans with experience and young guys who are ready to make their mark. Zack has been consistent all year. I think he has been saving his energy for this weekend. He really was ready for the regular season to end and for the tournament to begin.”

On the flip side of Shanaman and his experience are wrestlers like Thomas Shovlin who are competing in their first conference tournament. He will most likely be seeded fourth at 197 pounds and seems destined for a bout with reigning EIWA – and NCAA champion – Josh Glenn from American. Shovlin is not fazed by the looming match with the undefeated Glenn.

“All you can do is take it one match at a time,” Shovlin said. “As a team, we have put the work in from day one to be in this position and now it is time to capitalize. If we go out and wrestle like we are capable of, we will be difficult to beat. If you aren’t up for EIWAs, you are in serious trouble.”

The performances of guys like Shovlin and freshman Bryan Ortenzio will go a long way to determining whether the Quakers can claim their first team title in the 21st century.

“We may not be the favorites according to everyone else,” Zamir said. “But we have one of the deeper teams at the tournament. Upsets happen every year. If at the end of the day we have ten guys heading to St. Louis (site of the 2008 NCAA Championships), then we will have a say in who is team champion.”

Jones echoes the sentiments of his captain.

“While we may have exceeded the expectations of some experts who chose us to finish in the middle of the pack, we have no exceeded our own expectations,” he said. “We aspire to win EIWA titles and NCAA championships. It is important to remind the team that we haven’t accomplished all of our goals yet and it is time to focus on doing that.”

A full schedule of the tournament can be found here.

The EIWA has partnered with B2 Networks to broadcast a live webcast of the 104th EIWA Championships. Single Day Passes are available for $9.95 and an All-Session Pass is available for $14.95. For more information, please click here.

Download: 2008 EIWA Notes.pdf