PHILADELPHIA – Penn has little time to dwell on a win over No. 24 Penn State on Friday night as the Quakers prepare for their regular-season finale against No. 8 Lehigh on Sunday from a sold-out Grace Hall on Lehigh’s campus.
The two teams have met 47 times in the history of the in-state rivalry, including each of the past 13 seasons after a 40-year break. Penn has emerged victorious in just nine of the prior matchups, but has won the last two. Last season, the Red and Blue picked up a 24-15 win in The Palestra.
As if the natural rivalry between two of the most storied programs in Pennsylvania collegiate wrestling wasn’t enough, and if a packed house in Lehigh Valley isn’t enough of a bonus to gather your attention, throw in Senior Day festivities for one of Lehigh’s most popular wrestlers that is sure to get the crowd even more riled up. The icing on the cake is the fact that the dual will be televised on Service Electric 2 Sports and Fox Collegiate Sports Atlantic. It is safe to say that this dual as all the makings of a classic.
The ability of the match to live up to its hype centers around the twenty men who will do battle on the mat. Exactly half of the grapplers slated for action on Sunday are featured in the latest NWCA/InterMat rankings. Penn will bring three ranked wrestlers on the trip this weekend and the Hawks have seven in the polls.
All eyes will be on the match at 149 pounds between No. 11 Cesar Grajales and Lehigh’s No. 15 Trevor Chinn. The two have met three times in the past 12 months with Chinn holding a 2-1 advantage. Chinn picked up a 4-1 win in a tiebreaker last season and scored a 3-1 sudden victory win. Grajales’ win was a 3-2 win in a tiebreaker en route to his 2008 EIWA championship. The history between the two indicates another close battle is in the cards on Sunday. Factor in that the match is Chinn’s last home contest of his career and emotions are sure to be at a high level.
A few matches down the card, at 174 pounds, two New Jersey-bred wrestlers will renew their rivalry in Penn’s Scott Giffin and Lehigh’s No. 17 Alex Caruso. No strangers to each other from their days in high school, the two locked up three times last season. Caruso won a close dual match, 3-2, before Giffin defeated Caruso twice at the EIWA Championships where Giffin finished third to Caruso’s fourth. The first win for Giffin was a fall and the second was a 9-6 decision in the third-place match.
No. 15 Matt Fisk and Penn’s Bryan Ortenzio have also met this season at the Cliff Keen Invitational, with Fisk scoring a 4-2 decision in a physical bout.
At 165 pounds, Penn’s Zack Shanaman will look to equal last season’s 10-5 decision over Mike Galante. This season, Galante is 23-5 and ranked No. 15. Shanaman has been battling injury all season, but took No. 1 Mack Lewnes of Cornell to sudden victory last weekend. Shanaman struggled on Friday against Dan Vallimont of Penn State and will look to produce a better result in his final dual meet as a college wrestler.
Two wrestlers who have not met before, but whose match will no doubt have vital implications in the end result are Penn’s Trey McLean and Lehigh’s No. 10 Zach Rey at heavyweight. Rey, a redshirt freshman, is 18-3 on the season. McLean is peaking at the right time, winning nine of his last 10 matches. In addition, he has won three of his last four against ranked opponents and is 3-1 against heavyweights named Zach this season.
Lehigh is 22-1 on the season and is looking to set a school-record for dual wins in a season. The Quakers will set to deny that record and break Lehigh’s perfect 8-0 record in EIWA duals this season in front of a standing room only crowd in the Valley.