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PHILADELPHIA - Wrestling aficionados long have considered the state of Pennsylvania one of the premier hotbeds for amateur wrestling in the United States, and this weekend will give fans inside the Keystone State two opportunities to see high-level competition as No. 20 Penn takes on two in-state foes. First, the Quakers head to Bloomsburg on Friday night for a 7 p.m. dual with the Huskies. On Sunday, the Red and Blue make their dual-match debut on home mats for 2011-12 with a meet against No. 10 Lehigh at 1 p.m.
Penn took its first steps into dual competition last weekend, posting a 2-1 mark at the Northeast Duals. The day started with a stand-out 24-18 win against No. 14 American, a team considered a likely top-ten finisher at NCAAs in March. The Quakers followed up with a 32-12 win over North Carolina before ending the day with a 21-20 loss to Arizona State.
The Red and Blue had four wrestlers win all three of their matches last Saturday with another going 2-0 in his two outings. No. 14 Bryan Ortenzio, No. 6 Micah Burak, Steve Robertson and Lorenzo Thomas were all three-time winners with No. 4 Zack Kemmerer taking two matches over wrestlers ranked inside the top-15 nationally.
To be successful as a dual team, Penn will need continued contributions from those five throughout this portion of the schedule, and all indications point to that consistency carrying on.
Ortenzio is 12-0 this season and has outscored his opponents by a 91-20 margin while not allowing a single offensive point to be scored against him.
Kemmerer is on a similar roll, also sitting undefeated with a 7-0 record this season. He already has three wins against wrestlers ranked inside the top-15 at the time and has a decisive 60-18 edge in points scored - also without an offensive point allowed.
Penn's third highly-ranked wrestler is Burak at 197 pounds. After two weeks off the mats while rehabbing an injury, Burak picked up three wins for his team last Saturday, however two came by forfeit. In his lone match against an actual wrestler, Burak was quick to take control against veteran Nick Tenpenny from North Carolina, scoring seven points in the first period en route to an 11-2 win.
Two wrestlers who have to be close on the heels of the upperclassmen in terms of entering the national rankings are Robertson and Thomas. Both are already in double figures in wins in their rookie seasons and both are becoming heavily counted on to solidify the middle portions of dual meets.
Robertson is 13-1 overall and is riding a 12-match win streak since a loss in the second round of the Binghamton Open. He can open it up - four wins by major decision - or control a tight match - five wins by one point - depending on the situation. While he is still on the outside of the InterMat poll, Robertson was ranked No. 18 this week by TheOpenMat.com.
Thomas is 10-3 at 165 pounds, with three wins by fall and two of his losses to top-20 wrestlers. Last weekend, he went 3-0, scoring 15 team points and adding a fall against Arizona State.
The Red and Blue's lineup will be tested during both matches this weekend, first halfway across the state at Bloomsburg.
The Huskies are 2-2 in duals this season, but the losses have come to defending national champion Penn State and nationally-ranked Maryland. Friday's match will be the first home action of the year for the Huskies, who defeated Penn by a slim 25-23 margin last year at The Palestra. The Quakers had a 20-10 lead after the first six matches, but two pins by Bloomsburg at 174 and 184 wiped away the lead. Burak won his bout at 197, 7-0, but a decision win at heavyweight tipped the scales ultimately in favor of the Huskies.
The Huskies have No. 13 Frank Hickman in their lineup at 157 in addition to 2011 EWL champion and NCAA qualifier Mike Dessino at 174.
On Sunday, Penn renews its long and storied rivalry with Lehigh inside The Palestra. The two teams have met 50 times, with Lehigh holding a 39-9-2 edge in the series. Penn's last win in the rivalry came in 2008 via a 24-15 score in The Palestra. The Mountain Hawks have won the last three meetings, including a 35-4 win last February in Bethlehem. These two teams are usually meeting at the end of the year, with 37 of the 50 previous duals taking place in either February or March. This Sunday's dual will be the earliest Penn and Lehigh have met in a dual, narrowly edging the 1956 dual which took place on Dec. 8.
The early start will help set some rankings inside the EIWA come March, though, with a few key bouts on the horizon in terms of conference pecking order. The crucial bout is likely to come at 197 pounds where Burak awaits No. 9 Joe Kennedy. The two have split a pair of meetings previously in duals, with Burak a 3-2 winner in a tiebreaker in 2010 and Kennedy taking a 4-3 decision last season. This year, Kennedy is 8-2 with both losses coming to No. 7 Matt Wilps of Pittsburgh.
Thomas will have another test when No. 9 Brandon Hatchett lines up opposite him at 165 pounds. Hatchett is 10-1 this season with his only loss coming to a wrestler ranked ahead of him in the national polls. Eight of his ten wins have come with bonus points for the Mountain Hawks.
Continuing Lehigh's presence at the heavier weights is national No. 1 Robert Hamlin at 184 pounds. 8-0 this season, Hamlin was the national runner-up last year after claiming the EIWA Championship at 184.
If the dual is wrestled straight up starting at 125, Lehigh has a great anchor at heavyweight in defending national champion Zach Rey. A two-time All-American, Rey was ranked No. 1 this season before a loss at the Northeast Duals dropped him to No. 4.
All the action on Sunday will be carried live via webcast on the PennSportsNetwork. You can subscribe here. In addition, live updates via Twitter can be found here.
No. 22 Penn Probables for the Weekend:
125 Geoffrey Bostany, So. (3-7)
133 #14 Bryan Ortenzio, Sr. (12-0)
141 #4 Zack Kemmerer, Sr. (7-0) or Mark Pinero, Fr. (7-5)
149 Steve Robertson, Fr. (13-1)
157 Troy Hernandez, Jr. (4-6)
165 Lorenzo Thomas, Fr. (10-3)
174 Ian Korb, Fr. (9-6)
184 Erich Smith, Sr. (9-6)
197 No. 6 Micah Burak, Jr. (3-0)
285 Anthony DiLonardo, Fr. (2-6)
Rankings are from InterMat
125 - Sean Boylan, So. (4-5)
or Elliot Zackoski, rFr. (0-2)
or Dereck Enders, Fr.
133 - Nick Wilcox, So. (9-5)
or Craig Barker, So. (6-5)
or Jeremiah Biddle, rSr. (5-3)
141 - Matt Hicks, So. (3-4)
or Matt Rappo, Fr. (3-7)
149 - No. 24 Bryce Busler, Jr. (3-2)
157 - No. 12 Frank Hickman, rJr. (5-2)
or Mike Testen, rFr. (2-4)
165 - Kevin Hartnett, rSo. (8-5)
or Chris Smith, rSo. (6-8)
174 - No. 26 Mike Dessino, Jr. (7-3)
or Sam Shirey, rSo. (8-6)
184 - Mike Mirra, Fr. (4-5)
197 - No. 33 Richard Perry, rSo. (8-4)
285 - Zac Walsh, rSr. (6-3)
* Wrestling Report.com rankings
No. 10 Lehigh Probables
125 Mason Beckman Fr. 7-2
133 Chris Dinnien Fr. 1-5
133 Alex Abreu Jr. 0-4
141 Jim Carucci Fr. 2-5
149 Kyle Rosser Sr. 4-4
149 Anthony Salupo Rfr. 8-3
157 Brian Tannen Sr. 2-2
165 #9 Brandon Hatchett Sr. 10-1
174 Nate Brown Fr. 8-2
184 #1 Robert Hamlin RJr. 8-0
197 #9 Joe Kennedy Sr. 8-2
285 #4 Zach Rey Sr. 5-1
Rankings are from InterMat