PHILADELPHIA – The NCAA announced the 52 at-large selections to the 2009 NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Mo. on Wednesday, and Penn received two of the bids.
141-pounder Rick Rappo and 285-pounder Trey McLean both were selected from their weight classes to represent the Quakers at the national tournament next weekend. This is the second time both men will wrestle at the NCAA Championships. Both are seniors in their final year of eligibility.
The two join the four Penn wrestlers – Rollie Peterkin (125), Cesar Grajales (149), Matt Dragon (157) and Scott Giffin (174) – who automatically qualified based on their finishes at the EIWA Championships last weekend.
“We are excited to be able to add to the number of wrestlers who will compete at the highest collegiate level there is,” head coach Rob Eiter said. “Both of these men who earned at-large bids are well-deserved of the honor. Whether it was in the conference tournament or during the regular season, both of these men performed at a high level.”
Rappo had a tremendous conference tournament, finishing in third place – one spot away from an automatic berth.
“Rick wrestled a great conference meet,” Eiter said. “He gave himself a tremendous shot at one of the at-large bids and had a lot of coaches talking about his performance.”
McLean also placed at the conference meet, finishing sixth. However, he went 0-3 on the last day and left himself in a precarious position when it came to an at-large bid.
“Trey now has a second chance,” said Eiter. “He is upset with how he finished up at the EIWAs, but he proved during the regular season that he can beat anyone in the country. I think his first-round opponent will be worried, because there is no one dangerous that a wrestler with a second life. They can be real dangerous in a tournament.”
One Penn wrestler who was on the bubble for an at-large selection but saw that bubble burst was Bryan Ortenzio. Penn’s 133-pounder fell victim to the new NCAA qualifying system as wrestlers who had earned an automatic qualifying spot for their conference did not end up winning that spot. In that case, they used one of the at-large spots for that weight class. This is similar to the NCAA basketball tournament when a lower-seeded team wins a conference tournament, relegating the higher-seeded team to take an at-large bid away.
“I felt Bryan had a great shot at an at-large bid,” said the head coach. “Ultimately, he fell victim to the number game. If all the guys who earned an auto bid for their conference held to seed and won that spot, Bryan’s performance over the year and at the tournament should have gotten him in the tournament.”
Still, Eiter said that the mood in the room picked up this afternoon when he told the team that two of their own will be joining them in St. Louis.
“We had a real tough practice today, and the guys were tired,” he said. “As soon as I told the group that Rick and Trey were going, the spirits perked up and there was a renewed energy in the room. Hopefully that carriers over for the next week as we prepare for the national tournament.”
The NCAA Championship begin March 19 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
The full release detailing the at-large bids to the 2009 NCAA Wrestling Championships can be found here.