Penn Wrestling Report: Off to Vegas

PHILADELPHIA – “Vegas Baby!” – “Double Down” Trent Walker, Swingers (1996).

Welcome to the first edition of the Penn Wrestling Report (PWR) as we take a look at the world of Penn wrestling. Each week, PWR will include a look back at the most recent Penn wrestling action, a look forward to the weekend ahead and other features. The goal of the PWR is to bring you closer to the world of Penn wrestling and get to know the student-athletes who compete for the Red and Blue on the mats.

This week, we look back at Penn’s first two duals of the season as well as the Keystone Classic. In addition, we will preview Penn’s upcoming trip to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational. Added in will be the first installment of “Seven Minutes With ...” – a weekly interview with a member of the Penn wrestling family and “Here is What I Learned About Wrestling This Week!” – my weekly insight into a wrestling term/move/hold that I didn’t know about the week before.

A Look Ahead ...

As the quotation at the top of this entry implies, the Penn wrestling team is off to Las Vegas this weekend to compete in the 2008 Cliff Keen Invitational at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Nine Quakers head to Vegas hoping to turn “Sin City” into “Win City”. Here is a look at the Quakers who will take to the mats this Friday and Saturday:

125 pounds – Rollie Peterkin enters the weekend ranked No. 6 in the latest InterMat polls. He won the Keystone Classic in his last action, capping his 3-0 day with a 7-3 decision over American’s Thomas Williams. He has a 4-1 record on the season.

133 pounds – Bryan Ortenzio finished third at the Keystone Classic Nov. 23 and went 1-1 in Penn’s season-opening duals, including a pinfall win over Princeton’s Nikhil Pereira (2:44).

149 pounds – No. 14 Cesar Grajales is 10-1 on the season with a win at the Keystone Classic and two wins in Penn’s only duals of the season. He also advanced to the final of the East Stroudsburg Open before suffering his only loss of the season.

157 pounds – Matt Dragon, ranked No. 17 by InterMat, is one of just two Penn wrestlers on the trip who sport undefeated records. Dragon enters 11-0 with two tournament titles to his credit in a 2008-09 season which marks his return from an injury that had him out of commission last season. He won at both East Stroudsburg and at the Keystone Classic, going 9-0 over the two tournaments. He has added decision wins over Princeton’s Martin Everin (8-6) and Michigan’s Aaron Hynes (11-5).

165 pounds – No. 8 Zack Shanaman is also undefeated, with a 5-0 record. He did not compete at East Stroudsburg, but did open up his season with a pair of wins in Penn’s two duals. He defeated Princeton’s Mike Alvarez, 14-5, and took down Michigan’s Justin Zeerip, 6-3. Shanaman followed that up with a 3-0 day at the Keystone Classic for the championship.

174 pounds – Andrew Coles bumped up a weight class against Michigan and will do the same in Las Vegas. Against the Wolverines, Coles wrestled No. 1 Steve Luke and wrestled his heart out before dropping a major decision. Coles has also wrestled at 165 this season and went 4-1 at East Stroudsburg, his only loss coming in the finals.

184 pounds – Thomas Shovlin returns from injury to wrestle this weekend for the Red and Blue. Shovlin started the season with a 4-1 record, losing only to teammate Colin Hitschler in the finals of the East Stroudsburg Open. Shovlin, a 2008 NCAA Qualifier at 197 pounds, looks to make his mark at his new weight in Vegas.

197 pounds – Dan Zander leads Penn with four wins via pinfall so far this season, including three at the Keystone Classic where he finished fourth. He is 6-4 on the season.

Hwt. – Trey McLean rounds out the Quakers headed to Las Vegas. He is 8-2 on the season and was the champion at the East Stroudsburg Open. He advanced to the final of the Keystone Classic where he was defeated by Pitt’s No. 6 Zac Scheaffer. He is tied for the team lead in tech falls with three.

A Look Back ...

Penn took the team title at the Keystone Classic with 138.5 points, just edging out Pitt who came in second with 135.0 points. Penn had four individual champions – Peterkin (125), Grajales (141), Dragon (157) and Shanaman (165).

The day before, Penn wrestled two duals in The Palestra to start the season. The Quakers split the duals, defeating Princeton, 47-0, for their first EIWA and Ivy League wins of the season before falling to No. 9 Michigan, 22-15.

Rick Rappo, Grajales, Dragon and Shanaman each had two wins on the day. Rappo’s was perhaps the biggest of the dual with Michigan, as he pinned No. 5 Kellen Russell late in their match to score six points that tied things up for Penn. After the Red and Blue won the next three matches, Penn held a 22-6 lead, but could not stave of the hard-charging Wolverines, who won the final four bouts for the end score. Rappo’s win avenged a loss to Russell in the opening round of the 2008 NCAA Championships.

Against Princeton, Penn scored bonus points in seven matches, including pinfalls from Ortenzio and Cory Beaver (174). Peterkin, Grajales and McLean added tech falls and Shanaman came through with a major decision. Rappo picked up his win via forfeit. Colin Hitschler, Dragon and Zander each won via decision in the shutout.

Seven Minutes With ... Rollie Peterkin

In this spot each week, I will sit down with a Penn wrestler and learn about why they started wrestling and what some of their favorite moments on the mat are. We start off the series with Rollie Peterkin, 2008 EIWA champion at 125 pounds and a Round of 12 qualifier at the 2008 NCAA Championships.

Q. When did you start wrestling?

A. “I started when I was in third grade. I was always an athletic kid, jumping around and running all over the place. My neighbor, who was a gym teacher, told my dad I should start wrestling. I went to my first practice and came home hooked. I have been doing it ever since.”

Q. What is your favorite wrestling memory from before Penn?

A. “I would say winning a state title my freshman year of high school. I was wrestling at 103 pounds but I only weighed 90. It made me the underdog in every match. It was so much fun to go out and wrestle guys bigger and taller than me. It made beating them even better.”

Q. What is your favorite wrestling memory so far while at Penn?

A. “It has to be wrestling at NCAAs last season. Even though I didn’t have the amount of success I wanted, it is something that motivates me now. To be out there in front of that crowd and on the stage is a high point in our sport. It let me know I accomplished something and at the same time keeps me focused to go above and beyond this year.”

Q. Who has been your toughest opponent?

A. “I would say Angel Escobedo of Indiana. We wrestled in my first collegiate match at the Michigan State Open my freshman year. I had the lead on him with 30 seconds to go, but called for a penalty point because I locked my hands. That tied it up and we went to overtime where he won 3-2. He went on to win the 2008 NCAA title. He was tough, but hanging with him lets me know I can compete with anybody.”

Q. What is your favorite move or hold?

A. “I like to work from the defensive position. I feel like my athleticism and ability to scramble works best when my opponent attacks me and I can react. It may be unorthodox at times, but it works for me.”

Q. If you could choose another weight class to wrestle in, what would it be?

A. “My style is typical of lightweights, so I would maybe say 141 or 149. Those weights are loaded with talent so it would be fun to wrestle those guys and still be able to use my quickness.”

Q. If you could wrestle anyone from any era that you haven’t wrestled yet, who would it be?

A. “Matt Valenti, two-time NCAA champion at Penn. We are similar in weight and while we would drill and wrestle in the room from time to time, we never met in active competition. I think that would be fun.”

What I Learned About Wrestling This Week ...

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a wrestling expert. I have never wrestled and do not know much about the terminology involved. In this space each week, I will report to you on something new I learned so we can all improve our wrestling jargon.

This week ... the “Cement Mixer”.

In the dual with Michigan two weeks ago, Rick Rappo pinned No. 5 Kellen Russell in what appeared to be a quick move where Rappo planted Russell on his back and quickly turned him before Russell knew what happened.

The people who did know what happened were the two sitting next to me. Our clock operator and the person to his right quickly acknowledged the move as a “cement mixer.” Seemed like common knowledge to me so I set about learning what goes into such an effective move.

A cement mixer is a combination of two basic wrestling holds – a front headlock and a half-nelson or underhook. Once in place, the aggressor rolls to the underhook side which results in the defensive wrestler turned onto his back and in a pinning situation. It is an impressive visual as sometimes it can take a few cement mixers to properly lock in the pin.

Quoting Coach Eiter ...

At the end of each week’s report, I will feature a quote from head coach Rob Eiter about the upcoming weekend. This week, coach Eiter looks ahead to Las Vegas.

“This is another great test for the guys as far as competition we may not see until the end of the season. Expose ourselves to different styles of wrestling. Every trip is a building block towards the end of the season and we will look to work on the little things that will make us competitive at the EIWA and NCAA Championships.”

For more information on the Cliff Keen Invitational, click here.