PHILADELPHIA The University of Pennsylvania has released its 2008-09 wrestling schedule. The schedule features 15 dual matches as well as two in-season tournaments and a return to the Virginia Duals one of the premier dual-match tournaments in the nation.
“We are very pleased with our schedule for the upcoming season,” said head coach Zeke Jones, who enters his fourth season as head coach at Penn. “We have scheduled quality teams that will challenge us as we prepare for our goals to become EIWA champions and place as many wrestlers as possible at the NCAA Championships. Of course, the ultimate goal is a national title, and this schedule will prepare us to be in the hunt for that as well. There is no question we will wrestle the best the country has to offer.”
Penn’s slate of 15 duals includes ten home meets in The Palestra. The Quakers open the season on November 22 with a pair of duals. At noon, the Quakers welcome EIWA and Ivy League rival Princeton. Following the first dual (at approximately 2 p.m.), the Red and Blue welcome Michigan. The Wolverines ended last season with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships. They had six NCAA qualifiers, four of which were All-Americans. Of that quartet, two advanced to the finals of their weight class before finishing in second place. Three of the six NCAA qualifiers will return for the 2008-09 season.
There will be little rest for the Quakers as the following day they host the Keystone Classic. Nine teams will join the Red and Blue in The Palestra for a one-day tournament including American, Appalachian State, Boston University, Brown, Davidson, Mercyhurst, Pitt, Rider and Virginia Military Institute.
In December, Penn will again head to Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Invitational held Dec. 5-6. Last season at the Invitational, Penn had two placewinners as 125-pounder Rollie Peterkin and 184-pounder Lior Zamir earned spots on the podium.
To ring in 2009, Penn will host the Penn Duals in the Palestra on Jan. 3. The Quakers will welcome four teams for a day of competition starting at noon. Franklin & Marshall, East Stroudsburg, Gloucester and Delaware State will all wrestle as part of the Penn Duals.
The following weekend, Penn heads to Hampton, Va. for the Virginia Duals. This will mark the ninth time the Quakers will compete in one of the nation’s most competitive team dual tournaments. Last season, Penn went 2-2 at the Duals, falling in the semifinals to #2-ranked Oklahoma State, 19-15, in a dual that came down to the final match. This year’s lineup of 16 teams features some of the top programs in the country including Oklahoma State, Lehigh, Navy and Central Michigan. The bracket for the tournament will be announced at a later date.
After the Virginia Duals, Penn heads to Lincoln, Neb. to wrestle Nebraska on Jan. 23. The Cornhuskers finished fourth at the 2008 NCAA Championships with eight qualifiers five of which are returning for 2008-09 as All-Americans.
The Red and Blue then return home for four straight matches in The Palestra. On Jan. 25, Penn hosts Keystone State rival Pitt. The Panthers qualified six wrestlers to the 2008 NCAAs and had a national champion in graduated senior Keith Gavin.
Penn hosts Hofstra to end the month with a match on Jan. 31. The Pride qualified seven wrestlers to the NCAAs last season and had two All-Americans one of which, Alton Lucas, returns at 174 pounds.
Feb. 7 sees Penn host Ivy League foes Brown and Harvard for a pair of duals. The Bears had three NCAA qualifiers last season while the Crimson had two. Harvard’s J.P. O’Connor was an All-American and the 2008 Ivy League Wrestler of the Year. He and Cesar Grajales engaged in an epic match at the EIWA Championships where Grajales scored a 5-4 win in a tiebreaker. The fact that their other meeting in a dual last year ended in O’Connor’s favor by a 1-0 margin makes their expected clash in The Palestra one to look forward to.
The following weekend will be spent in the Empire State as Penn heads to Columbia (Feb. 13) and Cornell (Feb. 14). Columbia put three men in the 2008 NCAA Championships and features former Penn standout and two-time NCAA champion Matt Valenti on its coaching staff as an assistant.
The Big Red are the defending EIWA champions, defeating the Quakers by half a point in March. As a team, Cornell finished ninth at the NCAA Championships with four All-Americans. Cornell returns six All-Americans in 2008-09, including 2008 NCAA champion at 157 pounds Jordan Leen, and will be in the hunt for the national title.
A trip to Penn State awaits the Quakers on Feb. 20. The Nittany Lions finished third at the NCAA Championships last season with one national champion and one finalist. Overall four of Penn State’s seven NCAA qualifiers stood on the podium as All-Americans and two will be back in action in 2008-09.
Penn’s last dual of the season will be at Lehigh on Feb. 22. Lehigh is always a tough EIWA opponent and qualified five wresters to NCAAs last season.
The postseason begins with the EIWA Championships. This year’s tournament will be held at The Palestra March 7-8. Information on how you can attend EIWAs and watch as Penn looks to qualify ten wrestlers to the 2009 NCAA Championships will be available at a later date.
The men who do qualify for the NCAA Championships will head to Saint Louis March 20-22. The Championships will be at the Scottrade Center for the second consecutive year.
Penn’s Schedule by the Numbers58 2008 NCAA qualifiers from teams on Penn’s schedule in 08-09. 26 NCAA qualifiers returning for 2008-09 from opponents. 16 2008 All-Americans from opponents on Penn’s schedule. 15 Dual matches scheduled. 15 NCAA All-Americans returning from opponents on Penn’s schedule. 10 Home dual matches 8 Returning NCAA qualifiers on Penn (Peterkin, Rick Rappo, Grajales, Matt Dragon, Zack Shanaman, Scott Giffin, Thomas Shovlin, Trey McLean) 3 Returning EIWA Champions on Penn (Peterkin, Grajales and Dragon)
Penn Quakers 2008 Complete Wrestling Schedule
Date Opponent Time
Sat, Nov. 22 PRINCETON*Noon
Sat, Nov. 22 MICHIGAN 2 p.m.
Sun, Nov. 23 KEYSTONE CLASSICAll Day
Dec. 5-6 at Las Vegas Invit.All Day
Sat, Jan. 3 PENN DUALSNoon
Jan. 9-10 at Virginia Duals All Day
Fri, Jan. 23 at Nebraska 7 p.m.
Sun, Jan. 25 PITT2 p.m.
Sat, Jan, 31 HOFSTRA1 p.m.
Sat, Feb. 7 BROWN*Noon
Sat, Feb. 7 HARVARD* 2 p.m.
Sat, Feb. 14 at Columbia*6 p.m.
Sun, Feb. 15 at Cornell* 1 p.m.
Fri, Feb. 20 at Penn State 7 p.m.
Sun, Feb. 22 at Lehigh* 1 p.m.
Mar. 7-8 EIWA CHAMPIONSHIPSAll Day
Mar. 20-22 at NCAA Champ. (St. Louis) All Day
All home matches in bold caps
* Indicates EIWA match-