PHILADELPHIA - The NCAA released the first of three official coaches' panel rankings this afternoon and seven Penn wrestlers are included in the list.
These rankings are part of the official process used to determine qualifiers for the NCAA Championships, to be held March 18-20 in Omaha, Neb. Each qualifying tournament (which for Penn is the EIWA Championships) will be awarded a set number of automatic qualifiers at each weight based on the final coaches' panel in late February. At-large qualifiers will fill out the remainder of the field after the various qualifying tournaments are completed.
These coaches panels factor in three components - a wrestler's winning percentage, a wrestler's rating percentage index (RPI) and coaches' rankings.
The Quakers, off to a 4-3 start in dual matches as a team in 2009-10 have seven wrestlers ranked in the top-33 of their respective weight class. The rankings include 33 wrestlers at each weight because that is the number of entrants in each class at the NCAA Championships. Wrestlers currently in prime position to toss their name into the national tournament are Bryan Ortenzio (133), Zack Kemmerer (141), Cesar Grajales (149), Matt Dragon (157), Gabriel Burak (165), Scott Giffin (174) and Micah Burak (197.)
Senior Cesar Grajales is the highest-ranked Penn grappler in the first rankings. The senior is ranked 12th at 149 pounds despite only suiting up for six matches this season. His half-dozen matches have been pretty successful, however, as he advanced to the final at the Southern Scuffle in December with five straight wins before injuring his knee in the championship bout.
The Red and Blue have three wrestlers slotted at No. 20 in their weight class. Scott Giffin, a returning NCAA qualifier from 2008 and 2009, is back in the mix at 174 with a 12-3 record. He is joined by the Burak brothers, Gabriel and Micah. In his first season as a full-time starter, Gabriel has put together a 25-5 record at 165 pounds. His younger brother, Micah, is 14-4 in his freshman season at 197 pounds.
Bryan Ortenzio, who has arguably been Penn's most consistent wrestler this season, has taken his 21-6 record to a No. 22 ranking at 133 pounds. The champion of the Nittany Lion Open this past December, Ortenzio has his sights set on his first trip to the NCAA Championships this March.
Another Quaker in the coaches' panel rankings for the first time is Zack Kemmerer. One of Penn's busiest competitors this season, he has compiled a 22-7 record at 141 pounds and earned a ranking of No. 26.
The final Penn wrestler in this first group of rankings is Matt Dragon. Despite only wrestling five matches, Dragon's pedigree and prior success has him holding down at No. 29 at 157 pounds. He is 3-2 this season, including a 13-8 win over No. 25 Justin Lister of Binghamton.
Penn in the NCAA Coaches' Panel Rankings
133 lbs. - No. 22 Bryan Ortenzio
141 lbs. - No. 26 Zack Kemmerer
149 lbs. - No. 12 Cesar Grajales
157 lbs. - No. 29 Matt Dragon
165 lbs. - No. 20 Gabriel Burak
174 lbs. - No. 20 Scott Giffin
197 lbs. - No. 20 Micah Burak
The Quakers have their first chance to improve on these rankings this weekend against No. 23 Pittsburgh (2 p.m.) and Clarion (7 p.m.)