ST. LOUIS – After Day One of the 2009 NCAA Championships, Penn has half of its six wrestlers still alive in the tournament.
#8 seed Rollie Peterkin went 2-0 on the day, advancing to the quarterfinals. He will wrestle #1 Paul Donahoe of Edinboro tomorrow at 10 a.m. live on ESPNU and ESPN360.com.
In addition to Peterkin, the Quakers have two wrestlers alive in the consolation rounds. Scott Giffin (174) and Cesar Grajales (149) each have a chance to wrestle back to a place on the All-America podium.
The highlight of the day for Penn was definitely Peterkin’s advancement through the field at 125 pounds.
He opened the day with a 21-1 tech fall over Michigan State’s Eric Olanowski. Peterkin was on fire in the bout, scoring at will. Peterkin led 8-0 after the first period and sealed the tech fall with a five-point move in the third, He had four nearfalls in the bout.
His second round match saw him meet up with #9 seed Tyler Clark of Iowa State. Peterkin was efficient in the match, scoring two takedowns in the first period to pull away, 4-1. In the second, Peterkin utilized a tough ride to lock up riding time. An escape from Peterkin in the third widened the gap, rendering a late Clark takedown futile.
“I feel really good right now Peterkin said,” I think that I have been doing everything right in the training room and it paid off today.”
Head coach Rob Eiter agrees.
“Rollie is wrestling with a lot of confidence,” he said. “That means a lot at this tournament, and I like his mindset right now.”
Eiter points to a focus from Peterkin on his strategy for his performance lately.
“Rollie comes out with a gameplan and sticks to it,” said the first-year head coach. “Against ISU, Clark tried to make Rollie wrestle his style, and Rollie did a great job staying in his groove and keeping with what he does best.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Peterkin knows what lies ahead.
“I definitely have my work cut out for me,” he said. “There is no hiding out in the tournament.”
Eiter thinks that his wrestler appreciates the magnitude of the matchiup.
“Rollie is really just wrestling right now, not worrying about anything else,” he said. “The good thing is, Rollie enjoys wrestling the best competition – and he has that chance tomorrow.”
Donahoe is undefeated on the season and won the 2007 NCAA championship at 125 pounds. With his pair of wins today, Donahoe is 33-0. He owns a 15-5 win over Peterkin this season at the Virginia Duals.
Cesar Grajales is the other Penn wrestler to post two wins on Day One. He picked up both his wins in the wrestleback portion of the tournament after a loss via fall to #3 Darrion Caldwell of N.C. State in the opening round.
Grajales bounced back with a 10-5 win over Bloomsburg’s George Hickman, and followed that with an 11-2 major decision over Northern Colorado’s Mitchell Polkowske.
Eiter was impressed with Grajales’ ability to fight back after an early setback, especially the amount of points he scored.
“Cesar is a workhorse,” Eiter said. “It is tough to come back from an early loss, but it shows the amount of heart and desire he has.”
Scott Giffin, after a winless trip to the 2008 NCAA Championships, picked up his first win at the national tournament with an upset of #10 Kurt Brenner of West Virginia, 6-3.
Brenner had the early lead with a takedown, but Giffin fought back with an escape and then a late takedown for a 3-2 lead after one. Brenner escaped in the second to tie the match. In the third, Giffin worked his escape and then locked up the win with a takedown in the waning seconds of the bout.
In the second round, Giffin was defeated by #7 Mike Miller of Central Michigan. Miller, a 2007 All-American, 4-1. Miller scored the only takedown of the match in the first. He added an escape in the second and riding time at the end of the bout. Giffin will wrestle Wyoming’s Shane Onufer tomorrow.
At 141 and 285, a pair of Penn seniors saw their careers end with two losses on Day One.
Rick Rappo went to a tiebreaker with #5 Marcus Hoehn of Missouri before falling, 3-2. The two were tied, 1-1 after regulation. In sudden victory, neither man scored. In the first tiebreaker period, Rappo chose top and Hoehn reversed for two points. Rappo managed an escape in the second tiebreaker period, but could not come all the way back.
In the wrestleacks, Rappo ran into a game Cory Fish of Boise State. Fish was the aggressor from the start and took the match, 7-0.
Trey McLean had an early 4-2 lead on Nathan Everhart of Indiana, but the Hoosier rallied late in the bout, dominating the second and third periods for an 11-5 win. Cornell’s Zach Hammond ended the tournament for McLean with a 3-1 decision.
Matt Dragon fell victim to a tough draw, losing to #8 Adam Hall in a pigtail, 8-5. In the wrestlebacks, he had a late lead on Ohio State’s Jason Johnstone, but the Buckeye scored five points late for an 11-8 win.
The day as a whole was an exciting one for the over 30,000 fans who packed the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Upsets were the order of the first round, as 17 seeded wrestlers were defeated in the first round – including No. 1 Mack Lewnes of Cornell at 165 who was undefeated on the season. He lost his second round match as well. No. 1 at 141 Kellen Russell of Michigan was pinned in the second round. Other notable losses on the day saw No. 3 Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois lose in a pigtail at 133, No. 4 Alex Tsirtsis of Iowa go down at 141 in the first round, No. 2 Zach Tanelli of Wisconsin bow out in the second round, No. 2 bubba Jenkins of Penn State go two-and-out after finishing second last season, No. 5 Nick Marable of Missouri lose in the first round at 165 and No. 5 Dallas Herbst of Wisconsin lose to Drexel’s Jon Oplinger at 197.
“It is intense out there,” Eiter said. “With this new qualifying system, it has become clear to coaches and wrestlers that you need to come prepared. This tournament really does feature the best 33 wrestlers at each weight class.”
“It is chaotic out there,” he said. “Anything goes and anything can happen at the national tournament.”
Peterkin hopes that saying holds true tomorrow when he takes to the mat with the number one wrestler in the country.