Wrestling has always been an integral part of Penn Athletics, dating back the early development of the University when Ben Franklin drew plans for a wrestling facility in his original proposal. Franklin wrote, “That to keep them in health and to strengthen and render active their bodies they be frequently exercised in running, leaping, wrestling and swimming.”
Throughout the early years, the Red and Blue witnessed many talented grapplers, including Mike Dorizas, who pinned every college opponent he faced in an average time of less than one minute, blind grappler Bob Allman and National Hall of Famer Richard DiBatista who won two national championships and etched a perfect 85-0 career record.
However, it was in the 1960’s that the program firmly established itself as a powerhouse in the Ivy League. Don “Doc” Frey became head coach in 1962 and continued to steadily build the program. His efforts culminated in the latter portion of the decade with a 21-meet unbeaten streak, two Ivy League championships and 15 NCAA qualifiers. Frey would retire in 1970 with a 64-25-2 record over his nine-year career. With wrestlers like three-time EIWA placewinner David Pottruck, Frey brought the first Ancient Eight crown to Penn during the 1967-68 season. That year, the Quakers went 10-0 overall and 6-0 in the League thus setting a standard for future teams to meet.
Thirty years later, the Red and Blue were part of a similar run as they won seven-straight Ivy League Championships between 1995 and 2002 under the tutelage of current Quakers coach Roger Reina and behind the talents of All-Americans Brandon Slay, Brett Matter, Andrei Rodzianko, Bandele Adeniyi-Bada, Rick Springman, Yoshi Nakamura and Mike Fickell. During that period there are numerous highlights. In 1999, the Quakers finished the dual-meet season unbeaten (10-0-2, 4-0-1 Ivy League) for the first time since 1968-69 and won their fourth-straight EIWA Championship, fifth Ivy League crown and finished 11th at the NCAA Championships. In 2002, the Quakers finished the season with a 10-4 record and captured a record-tying seventh-consecutive Ivy League Championship with a 5-0 mark. Penn climbed the national dual-meet rankings to eighth in the country and received that same ranking in the end of the season polls. The Red and Blue became the first Ivy League school to be ranked in the top-10 since Cornell in 1961.
The tradition of excellence lives on as Penn wrestling continually strives to be the best in the Ivy League.
Written by Kelly McCarthy, athletic communications assistant