PHILADELPHIA – With the homestretch of the 2015-16 wrestling season looming, the University of Pennsylvania wrestling team received its first true look at where it stands on an individual basis via the release of the first NCAA Coaches Rankings.
Listing the top 33 wrestlers as voted on by a panel of head coaches from around the country, the Coaches Panel is a first crack at forecasting the 33 wrestlers who will make up each weight class at the NCAA Championships in March. There will be two more Coaches Panels over the next six weeks, the final one coming before the EIWA Championships to help determine the amount of automatic bids awarded to each weight for each conference.
The Penn Quakers are represented by five wrestlers in the first Coaches Panel:
No. 25 Caleb Richardson (133 pounds)
No. 11 C.J. Cobb (149 pounds)
No. 25 May Bethea (157 pounds)
No. 13 Casey Kent (174 pounds)
No. 11 Lorenzo Thomas (184 pounds)
No stranger to the NCAA Championships, Lorenzo Thomas earned All-American honors in 2014 and has twice qualified for the national tournament. He enters this weekend with an 18-4 overall record, and a 3-4 record against wrestlers ranked inside the Top-33. In fact, three of his four losses have come to the No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers – Cornell’s Gabe Dean and Lehigh’s Nate Brown. Thomas will have another shot at Dean in three weeks at the dual meet, and has another four matches scheduled against wrestlers inside the Top-33 – including No. 10 Steven Schneider of Binghamton on Sunday.
A Round of 12 finisher last year at NCAAs, C.J. Cobb has made two trips to the national tournament over his career. Cobb has been in control most of the season, posting a 16-2 overall record with a team-high five pins. He is 3-2 against Top-33 wrestlers this season, including a win over Drexel’s No. 10 Matt Cimato – an opponent he will wrestle again in the final dual meet of the season. The rematch with Cimato is one of five matches against opponents in this week’s Top-33 left for Cobb.
After a 2014-15 season which was lost to injury, Casey Kent has returned to the mats this season with a vengeance. He is 16-4 overall, and is 1-4 against opponents inside the Top-33. All four of his losses have come to opponents ranked No. 18 or higher, and his win was a signature one – he knocked off then-No. 1 and current No. 5 Brian Realbuto of Cornell at the Southern Scuffle. It is likely that Kent and Realbuto will meet again at the dual meet on February 13, one of five matches against Top-33 opponents left for Kent this season. His next Top-33 match will be on Sunday against Binghamton’s No. 28 Jack McKeever.
Twice an NCAA qualifier, Caleb Richardson is once again in line for a national tournament berth. He is 13-7 this season at 133 pounds, and 2-3 against Top-33 opponents. He will have a chance to avenge two of those losses with upcoming matches against Cornell’s No. 1 Nahshon Garrett and Rider’s No. 30 Robert Deutsch.
The lone Quaker in the initial rankings who has not previously competed at the NCAA Championships is May Bethea. 14-7 this year at 157 pounds, Bethea is 2-2 against opponents in the Top-33, with both of his wins coming against wrestlers ranked inside the Top-16.
Notes: The EIWA has 61 of the 330 (18.5%) wrestlers in the initial Coaches Panel … Penn’s five wrestlers are tied for fifth-most among EIWA schools … Lehigh’s nine inside the Top-33 lead the EIWA … Of the Penn wrestlers not included, a few have strong cases to be made for finding their way in by the end of the season … Ray Bethea is 8-5 overall at 165 pounds, with three loses inside the Top-33 and five potential matches with Top-33 opponents remaining … Frank Mattiace is 12-8 at 197 pounds, with a 1-5 record against Top-33 opponents … Mattiace is currently injured … At heavyweight, Patrik Garren is 10-6, with four of his losses coming inside the Top-33 and five remaining opponents among those ranked … At 141, Marc Mastropietro has seen five of his nine losses this season come to opponents ranked No. 21 or higher.
As a reminder, wrestlers only can earn automatic bids to the NCAA Championships by earning an automatic qualifying (AQ) spot via his finish at his conference tournament. The number of AQs up for grabs at each weight will be determined by a calculation which includes the final Coaches Panel, final RPI ranking, and final winning percentage rankings.