PHILADELPHIA – A day that started with Penn within striking distance of defending EIWA champion Cornell – and with six wrestlers in the semifinals – did not go as planned on Sunday, as Penn struggled through the semis and wrestlebacks en route to a third-place tie with Bucknell. Both teams finished with 79 points.
Cornell won the overall crown with a score of 138. Lehigh finished second, 35 points behind. The 138 points from the Big Red is the most by a winning team since Lehigh scored 145, also in The Palestra, in 2004.
Junior Rollie Peterkin was the lone highlight for the Quakers, reaching the final at 125 pounds for the second year in a row. While he won the championship in 2008, this year he ran into Cornell’s Troy Nickerson, the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds in the country. Nickerson won the title, 5-2.
Nickerson scored the first points of the match with a shot to the legs at 1:30. Peterkin was close to a couple of reversals late in the period, but Nickerson was able to maintain a grasp on Peterkin to retain advantage.
In the second period, Peterkin started out on top and rode tough for a half-minute to erase Nickerson’s riding time advantage. Peterkin went so far as to reach out and sweep the legs to keep control. Nickerson added to his lead with 20 seconds left in the period with a reversal, and a 4-0 lead after two periods.
In the third, Peterkin got on the board with a reversal with 1:00 left in the bout. Nickerson escaped 13 seconds later for the 5-2 lead that was the final margin. Peterkin went for broke at the end, almost securing a takedown on the edge of the mat, but ultimately time ran out.
After the match, Peterkin was disappointed in the result, but already looking ahead to the NCAA Championships.
“This has left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said. “I feel unsatisfied. This match may have exposed some flaws in my style right now, but those are things I can work on as I prepare for the national tournament.”
Head coach Rob Eiter sees not only room for improvement in Peterkin’s matches, but the desire to do so, as well.
“Rollie is working really hard to close the gap, not only on Nickerson, but the other top guys in the country.”
Peterkin hopes that his motivation to improve extends to the members of the team who will join him in St. Louis.
“Everyone on this team has something to prove,” said the junior from Wellesley, Mass. “We have no returning All-Americas and now we have no conference champions. Hopefully, this week, we can all rally around each other and band together to show the country what we are capable of.”
“These next two weeks, it is all about minimizing mistakes and emphasizing what it is that you do well.”
The Quakers Weight-by-Weight
125 – Peterkin advanced the farthest of any Quaker, reaching the final for the second-straight year. Unlike last year, Peterkin was unable to take the crown, falling to Nickerson, 5-2. Earlier in the day, peterkin defeated Bucknell’s Derek Reber, 10-0, to reach the final. The win was Peterkin’s second shutout of the tournament.
133 – Bryan Ortenzio placed at the conference tournament for the first time with a 7-3 decision over Jasen Borshoff of American in the fifth-place bout. Ortenzio was 3-2 for the tournament, and defeated Harvard’s Tommy Picarsic in a consolation match on Sunday before falling to Lehigh’s Matt Fisk, 3-0, to miss out on wrestling for third place. With the EIWA receiving four automatic entries to the NCAA Championships at 133, Ortenzio is just outside that cutoff and will wait to hear about an at-large bid later this week.
141 - Rick Rappo, seeded third, lived up to that seed with a third-place finish at 141. In the third-place match, he defeated William Simpson of Army, 14-5, for his second major decision of the tournament. In his first bout of the day, Rappo was defeated in the semifinals by Seth Ciasulli of Lehigh, 3-1. Rappo bounced back with an 8-3 decision over Matt Mariarcher of American in the consolation semis.
149 – Defending champion at 149, Cesar Grajales, did not repeat as champion, but did earn another spot on the podium – and a trip back to the NCAA Championships – with his fifth-place finish. Grajales finished the tournament with a 4-2 record. He defeated Bucknell’s Kevin LaValley, 4-2, to claim fifth place. He too was defeated by a wrestler from Lehigh on Sunday, losing to Trevor Chinn, 4-2, in the consolation semifinals. Prior to that, Grajales prevailed over Harvard’s Walter Peppelman, 3-0.
157 – Matt Dragon was not able to add a third EIWA crown to his collection, but did end up in fourth place. His finish clinched an automatic berth to the national tournament. Dragon was defeated by Cornell’s Jordan Leen, 5-1, in the semifinals to start the day. He then defeated Columbia’s Derek Sickles, 8-5, to gain a spot in the third-place bout. Rutgers’ Scott Winston pinned Dragon at 2:26 to claim third place.
174 – Scott Giffin, the only Penn wrestler to clinch his NCAA berth on the first day of competition, was defeated by Cornell’s Steve Anceravage in the semifinals, 10-2. Giffin was then defeated by Lehigh’s Alex Caruso, 3-2, despite being close on a takedown at the end of the match. In the fifth-place match, Giffin fell to Navy’s Luke Rebertus, 5-2, to finish in sixth position.
197 – Thomas Shovlin took on Cam Simaz in the semifinals, but is match did not last past the first period as Shovlin injured his knee just over two minutes into the bout. He attempted to continue, but in bottom position, the torque on his knee was too much and the match was halted. Shovlin was unable to continue in the tournament, but was still awarded sixth place.
285 – Trey McLean was the eighth Penn wrestler to place at the event, coming in sixth place. He had an epic semifinal match with second-seeded Zachary Rey of Lehigh as the two went for over nine minutes of action before Rey pinned McLean at 9:32. The two battled through regulation, sudden victory and the first tiebreaker before Rey’s pin in the second period of sudden victory. McLean could not rebound against Rutgers’ D.J. Russo, losing a close decision, 11-8. In the fifth-place bout, Cornell’s Zach Hammond pinned McLean at 1:54. The NCAA automatic berth cutoff at 285 was fourth place, so McLean is sweating out the at-large selection process.
As of right now, Penn has four wrestlers entered in the 2009 NCAA Championships in St. Louis, March 19-21. At-large selections will be announced later this week.