PHILADELPHIA - Penn needed a win to close out its home schedule on the right foot. Steven Graziano needed a signature win to add to his ever-growing resume.
Both were accomplished with Graziano's 5-2 win over 2011 NCAA qualifier Kevin Lester in the final bout of a back-and-forth dual with Columbia as Graziano scored two takedowns in the third period to secure a 19-18 win for the Quakers.
Penn needed Graziano's win after Columbia erased a 13-12 Penn lead via a fall at 184 to give the Lions an 18-13 lead with two matches left. No. 10 Micah Burak put Penn in position for the win via a 10-3 decision over Nick Mills, setting the stage for Graziano's clinching win.
Graziano wrestled aggressively the entire match against the taller and heavier Lester, fighting off multiple Lester bear hug attempts in the first period and only missing out on a second-period takedown when Lester was brought down off the mat. In the third period, Graziano first tied the match on an escape three seconds in before scoring his first takedown with 45 seconds left. After Lester escaped with 20 seconds remaining, Graziano sealed the win with a takedown just before the buzzer to send The Palestra into a frenzy.
Graziano's win was one of six on the day for the Quakers as the Red and Blue overcame allowing bonus points in all four of their losses. On Senior Day, two of Penn's seniors came through with wins, as No. 14 Bryan Ortenzio (a 6-1 decision over Kyle Gilchrist) and No. 12 Zack Kemmerer (a 12-0 major decision over Ryan Ponte) capped their careers in style while giving Penn its first lead of the match.
Penn had a pair of wins from its true freshmen as Steve Robertson and Lorenzo Thomas defeated two of Columbia's veteran wrestlers.
Robertson knocked off No. 20 Steve Santos via a 6-4 decision at 149 pounds for his first career win over a Top-20 wrestler. Robertson had a takedown in each of the first two periods to build his lead, an advantage he needed as Santos scored a takedown in the third period to close the gap. The win was the 20th of the season for Robertson, second-most on the Quakers.
Thomas also picked up a key win for the Red and Blue via a 9-3 decision over two-time NCAA qualifier Eren Civan. Thomas trailed after the first period, 2-1, but came back with seven points in the second period to take control of the match. The big swing was a five-point sequence in the final seconds of the period when Thomas took Civan down and added three backpoints.
Columbia regained the lead following wins at 174 and 184 as Stephen West defeated Ian Korb, 9-1, and Shane Hughes scored a fall over Erich Smith at 3:10. Korb trailed by just two after the first period, but West hit a Peterson in the second period for a reversal and two backpoints to widen the gap. At 184, Erich Smith had scored the opening takedown but allowed a late reversal as Hughes tied the match. Smith chose bottom for the second period, and as he attempted to get to his feet and escape, Hughes locked in a cradle for the quick fall.
The dual started with a 15-2 win by Robert Dyar over Karim Shafi at 125 pounds, but Shafi's ability to wrestle through the third period and defend in the final seconds kept the result at a major decision, saving what turned out to be valuable team points.
Penn is now 6-6 this season and 2-2 inside the Ivy League. The Quakers head to Bucknell on Sunday for an EIWA clash with the Bison at noon.
Penn def. Columbia, 19-18
125 - Robert Dyar (CU) MD Karim Shafi (Penn), 15-2 Columbia leads, 4-0
133 - #14 Bryan Ortenzio (Penn) DEC Kyle Gilchrist (CU), 6-1 Columbia leads, 4-3
141 - #12 Zack Kemmerer (Penn) MD. Ryan Ponte (CU), 12-0 Penn leads, 7-4
149 - Steve Robertson (Penn) DEC #20 Steve Santos (CU), 6-4 Penn leads, 10-4
157 - Jake O'Hara (CU) MD Troy Hernandez (Penn), 12-2 Penn leads, 10-8
165 - Lorenzo Thomas (Penn) DEC Eren Civan (CU), 9-3 Penn leads, 13-8
174 - Stephen West (CU) MD Ian Korb (Penn), 9-1 Penn leads, 13-12
184 - Shane Hughes (CU) WBF Erich Smith (Penn) 3:10 Columbia leads, 18-13
197 - #10 Micah Burak (Penn) DEC Nick Mills (CU), 10-3 Columbia leads, 18-16
285 - Steven Graziano (Penn) DEC Kevin Lester (CU), 5-2 Penn leads, 19-18