Grapplers Reach Milestones in 2004-05

No one knew what to expect from the 2004-05 version of the Quakers. With All-American Matt Valenti out for the season along with NCAA qualifiers Matt Herrington and Paul Velekei gone for the year, the entire Quakers squad stepped up and made it a season filled with milestones.

The Quakers finished the season with a 9-4 overall record, a 4-1 mark in the Ivy League and a 5-2 mark in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA). Penn placed fifth at the 101st EIWA Championships and sent four grapplers to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

Getting Started

Penn opened the tournament season with a pair of top-three finishes at the Brockport Oklahoma Gold (third) and the Keystone Classic. The Red and Blue’s continued to impress as they finished 13th at the Las Vegas Invitational during their first-ever appearance and 13th at the 42nd Annual Midlands Championships.

The 2004-05 season also marked the return of 125-pounder Mason Lenhard after nearly two years away from the mat. Lenhard, the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Year in 2001 and an NCAA qualifier in each of his first two seasons with the Quakers, seemed to pick up where he left off. The Parma, Ohio native went 15-14 overall, finished fourth at EIWAs and qualified for his third NCAA Championship.

Senior Rich Ferguson turned things around midseason winning seven out of his last 10 regular season matches and finishing sixth at the EIWA Championships. Ferguson opened the season by winning his first Keystone Classic title at 165 lbs. and struggled a bit through the remainder of the tournament schedule. But when dual meets rolled around, Ferguson was back on track, winning five out his last six matches, including a perfect 4-0 in duals against Harvard, Franklin & Marshall, Brown and North Carolina. He opened the weekend

Rising to the Challenge

There were some big shoes to fill at 174 lbs. with Herrington, a two-time NCAA qualifier out for the season, but junior Dustin Wiles was not afraid to step up and fill the void. In his first full season as a starter, Wiles went 26-13 overall, placed fifth at the EIWA Championships and earned his first-ever bid the NCAA Championships. He also led the team in takedowns (73) and pins (8).

Wiles opened the season with an 11-3 mark and a pair of third-place finishes at the Brockport Oklahoma Gold and the Keystone Classic. Wiles continued to wrestle well against some of the premier grapplers in the nation. He was edged by a riding-time point in an 8-7 loss to No. 11 Mitch Hancock of Central Michigan on Jan. 7 but bounced back with a 3-2 victory over No. 10 Paul Siemon of Hofstra on Jan. 16.

It was at EIWAs that Wiles truly exhibited his talents. He went 4-2 at the tournament, three of those wins were by fall, while the fourth was a 10-6 decision. His performance was very impressive and for his efforts, he earned one of the EIWA’s 12 wild card berths to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

The NCAAs were a homecoming of sorts for Wiles who hails from Farmington, Mo., a town just an hour south of St. Louis. Wiles drew some tough competition in the first round as he fell to No. 3 seed Pete Friedl of Illinois, 6-2. However, Wiles was victorious in the first round of wrestlebacks as he pinned UNC Greensboro’s Joe Lowe in 6:15. But the in the next round, Wiles found himself pitted up against EIWA rival Travis Frick of Lehigh. Unfortunately, Wiles was unable to avenge two losses earlier in the season, falling, 8-4, to end his run.

The Dual Season

The Red and Blue opened the dual meet portion of the schedule on a high note with a 24-16 victory of Big Ten foe Purdue. It was Penn’s first win over the Boilermakers in three meetings. The Quakers opened the meet by winning the first four matches to take a 15-0 lead. Purdue pulled within 15-9, but sophomore Brock Wittmeyer (157) and Wiles put the meet away with respective decision and injury default points.

The dual season was also highlighted by the Quakers’ string of five wins over Harvard (28-15), Franklin & Marshall (40-6), Brown (19-12), North Carolina (24-10) and Princeton (28-10) in the heart of the EIWA and Ivy League competition.

Penn finished the season with a 9-4 overall record, a 4-1 mark in the Ancient Eight and a 5-2 record in the EIWA. Five Quakers earned All-Ivy League honors, including Matt Feast, who was a unanimous first-team selection for the second-straight year. Wiles and senior Doug McGraw earned second-team nods, while seniors Marcus Schontube and Ferguson received honorable mentions

Number 200

Head Coach Roger Reina, the winningest coach in program history, recorded his 200th career victory on Jan. 28 at Columbia. Reina, in his 19th season has amassed a career record 205-104-6, has held the position of head coach longer than any other in program history and his win totals are more than double of any of his predecessors. Reina’s guidance has produced 15 winning seasons in the past 19 years. Out of the six current Ivy League head coaches, only Dave Amato of Brown has more career victories, amassing more than 320 wins in 27 seasons, with more than 260 of those coming in 21 years at the helm of the Bears.

Finding Their Place at EIWAs

Penn had eight grapplers place at the 101st EIWA Championships on March 5. Feast led the way with his third-consecutive heavyweight crown, while Lenhard placed fourth at 125. McGraw and Wiles each earned fifth-place finishes, while Ferguson (165), Jeff Eveleth (133), Kyle Bernholz (149) and Marcus Schontube (197) finished sixth in their respective weightclasses.

And then there was Feast

The prolific career of Matt Feast drew to a close on March 19 as he finished sixth at the NCAA Championships. The heavyweight became Penn’s first three-time All-American and the fourth Ivy Leaguer to complete the feat. Feast will leave Penn as second on the all-time career wins list with 118 career victories.

At the 101st EIWA Championships, Feast also became one of only four Penn grapplers to complete the trifecta. He joined the exclusive company of Yoshi Nakamura (1999, 2001-02), two-time NCAA Champion Richard DiBatista (1941-43) and the legendary Mike Dorizas (1914-1916). Feast is only the second heavyweight to win three EIWA titles with Navy’s Dan Hicks doing so in 1992, 1994 and 1995.

Feast started his senior campaign off with a bang winning his first 12 bouts including the Brockport Oklahoma Gold title and his fourth-consecutive Keystone Classic crown. Feast then notched two second-place finishes at the Las Vegas Invitational and the Midlands Championship. It was at Midlands where his run at history began as he posted his 100th career win with a 3-1 decision overIowa’s Chad Barkalow, to become one of five Penn grapplers to reach the 100-win milestone.

The two-time co-captain closed out his senior campaign with a 31-6 overall record, a 4-0 mark in the Ivy League and a 5-0 record in the EIWA. Feast garnered several postseason honors, including his third-consecutive first-team All-Ivy League selection and his third-consecutive Academic All-Ivy honor.

Looking to Future

Looking back on the season, the Quakers were able to step-up when several key components were gone. Despite losing Feast, one of the most decorated Penn grapplers, next season, the Red and Blue will return the familiar faces of NCAA qualifiers Matt Valenti, Matt Herrington and Paul Velekei. Combine their abilities with the experience of the remaining starters and the host of talented freshman, Penn wrestling will be looking to challenge the nation’s best in 2006.

-Written by Kelly McCarthy, athletic communications assistant