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PHILADELPHIA - After a 27-day break between competitions, No. 22 Penn returns to the mats for one of the nation's most prestigious mid-season tournaments at the 50th Ken Kraft Midlands Championships Dec. 29-30 at Northwestern University.
The Quakers will begin a 12-day road trip at Midlands, spending six days in the Chicago area before heading further west to California to prep for Jan. 6 duals with Stanford and Arizona State in Palo Alto.
When last the wrestling world saw the Quakers, Penn was finishing off a historic weekend which featured the first-ever sweep of both Lehigh and Hofstra in a single season by a Penn team. Those two wins propelled the Red and Blue to No. 22 in the NWCA/AWN/USA Today Top-25 and the Quakers are set to improve that ranking with strong showings at Midlands. The tournament will feature 15 teams ranked inside this week's Top-25 in both the NWCA dual-meet rankings and InterMat's Top-25 tournament strength rankings.
Last year at Midlands, Micah Burak advanced to the final at 197 pounds where he was defeated by number one seed Chris Honeycutt of Edinboro, 4-0. Burak has been out since the middle of November with injury, but is on the travel roster for the trip and could make his return at Midlands.
Mark Rappo will make his Midlands debut this weekend, entering the tournament ranked No. 17 in the country. He will set course on one of the more loaded weight classes in the tournament, as 11 of the Top-20 in this week's InterMat poll are likely entrants. Lurking are potential rematches from earlier this season against No. 16 Dom Malone of Northwestern - who defeated Rappo in sudden victory of the title bout at Keystone - and No. 19 Steve Bonnano of Hofstra who Rappo defeated in overtime during Penn's dual win over the Pride.
C.J. Cobb moved into the national rankings after his strong start at 141 pounds, holding a rank of No. 16 this week. He will lace up for the weight class with the most Top-20 wrestlers entered as 12 Top-20 grapplers are likely competitors this weekend. Cobb is 9-3 this season, his three losses by a combined four points. Of his nine wins, four have been major decisions and he has scored a total of 96 points. Seven of the top-ten wrestlers in the country are likely entrants this weekend.
Unranked, but entering the tournament with a record of 8-5 is Casey Kent. A true freshman, Kent has already wrestled four top-20 wrestlers at 165 pounds, two of which will be in action this weekend. Five of his nine wins have been via bonus points, including a pair of 17-0 technical falls.
Last year, Penn was 15th out of 42 teams entered at Midlands, fourth among the seven EIWA schools entered. A trip to the Midlands finals is a good indicator of NCAA Tournament success in March - last year three of the 17 NCAA competitors in the finals at Midlands went on to reach the finals at NCAAs. 24 of the wrestlers who took top-eight finishes at the 2011 Midlands went on to replicate that result with a top-eight finish for All-American honors at NCAAs in March.
Penn's Travel Roster for Midlands and Stanford/Arizona State
125: #17 Mark Rappo, Sr. (6-1)
133: Geoffrey Bostany, Jr. (5-6)
141: #16 C.J. Cobb, So. (9-3)
141: Eric DeVos, Fr. (3-4)
149: Andrew Lenzi, Jr. (9-4)
157: Troy Hernandez, Sr. (4-3)
165: Casey Kent, Fr. (9-5)
174: Ian Korb, So. (9-6)
174: Harrison Cook, Jr. (3-5)
184: Canaan Bethea, Jr. (8-3)
197: No. 8 Micah Burak, Sr. (3-1)
197: Mike Steltenkamp, Sr. (0-5)
285: Kyle Cowan, Jr. (4-3)
285: Steven Graziano, Jr. (6-5)