Philadelphia The University of Pennsylvania wrestling team announced that it will welcome 14 members of the class of 2009 to the mats next season. Six of the student-athletes are ranked among the top-20 high school seniors in the nation in their respective weightclasses.
“This class is absolutely outstanding by any measure,” Head Coach Roger Reina said. “We’re bringing in terrific talent, terrific attitudes, many of the very best from our home state and a full range of weight classes. The excitement level is extremely high regarding the unlimited potential these student-athletes bring to our program.”
At 125 lbs., the Quakers have brought in Rick Rappo (Holland, Pa./Council Rock) and Andrew Valenti (Newton, N.J./Kittatinny). Rappo, ranked as the seventh-best senior at 112 lbs., was 42-1 as a senior and closed his career at Council Rock with a 121-22 record. His only loss last season came in the state championship finals. He also captured the 2004 state championship as a junior. Nationally, he is a two-time Junior National All-American. Valenti will join his older brother Matt, an All-American for the Red and Blue, on the mat next season. As a senior, Valenti posted 26-7 mark, finished seventh in the New Jersey State Championships and was named first-team All-West Jersey. In the classroom, Valenti was ranked first in his class and was named a Bloustein Distinguished Scholar.
Seeing time at 133 lbs. will be Brett McCurdy (Lansdale, Pa./Germantown Academy). McCurdy, ranked 18th at 130 lbs., went 171-17 at Germantown Academy, including a 45-3 mark as a senior. He is a four-time Pennsylvania Prep State Champion and is a four-time placewinner at the National Prep Wrestling Tournament, placing second in each of the last three seasons.
Caesar Grajales (Brandon, Fla./Brandon) will see time at 133 and 141 lbs. Grajales, ranked fifth at 135 lbs., is a four-time Florida State Champion. He went undefeated at Brandon his first two seasons and finished his career with a 181-2 record in four different weight classes. Nationally, he placed fifth at the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Senior Nationals, is a Junior FILA Freestyle National Champion, a Cadet Greco Roman National Champion, a Cadet Freestyle All-American and qualified for the Junior World Team Games. In the classroom, Grajales is ranked third in his class and was a Wendy’s High School Heisman State Finalist.
Dan Burkholder (Washington, Pa./Trinity) will see action at either 141 or 149 lbs. for the Quakers. Burkholder, ranked sixth at 140 lbs., captured the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) State Championship and posted a 24-1 mark as a senior. He finished his career at Trinity with a 130-27 record. On the national level, Burkholder placed third at Junior NationalsGreco Roman and fifth in Junior Nationals-Freestyle.
Projected at 149/157and 165are Matt Dragon (Dallas, Pa./Lake Lehman) and Andrew Coles (Voorhees, N.J./Blair Academy). Dragon, ranked sixth-best high school senior by Wrestling USA, had an outstanding senior campaign finishing the season a perfect, 45-0, and picking up state, regional and district championships along the way. He posted a 166-11 mark during his career with three regional and four district titles and is an eight-time Cadet and Junior National All-American. At Blair, Cole posted a 27-11 record and placed second at NCWA Nationals in Dallas, Texas. At Eastern Regional High School he was 102-25 and was a four-time varsity scholar-athlete.
Seeing time at 165 and 174 lbs. will be Matthew Deluca (East Meadow, N.Y./East Meadow) and Colin Hitschler (Glenside, Pa./Penn Charter). As a senior at East Meadow, Deluca went 38-2 to bring his career record to 154-29. He placed sixth and fourth, respectively, in the state his final two seasons. Nationally, Deluca placed first at the NWCA Brute Nationals. Hitschler will be joining his older brother, Rob, in a Red and Blue uniform next season. Hitschler, a four-time Pennsylvania Prep champion, went 44-1 as a senior and won his third team MVP award. He was the 2005 National Prep Champion placing at the championships for the third time.
In the upperweights (184-197lbs.), Penn will be joined by Daniel Zander (National Park, N.J./Gateway Regional), Neil Cisper (Lenexa, Kan./St. Thomas Aquinas) and John Sullivan (Huntington, N.Y./Huntington). Zander was 31-5 as a senior at Gateway Regional and placed sixth at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Wrestling Tournament. He finished his career with a 104-23 record. Cisper is a two-time state champion and three-time first-team all-county pick. As a senior, he posted a 43-1 record with 34 pins and captured the 189 lbs. state championship. As a junior, he won the 171 lbs. championship and went 39-1 on the year. The Cadet and Junior freestyle champion leaves St. Thomas Aquinas with a 131-17 record. In the classroom, Cisper was named to the 2005 Kansas All-Academic Wrestling Team. Sullivan finished his career at Huntington High School with a 134-32 record. He is a two-time Section 11 champion and a two-time state runner-up. Sullivan also excels in the classroom as he was named the top scholar-athlete in Suffolk County.
At heavyweight, the Quakers will welcome Jayson Bowlsby (Eden Prarie, Minn./Eden Prarie) and Benjamin Reiter (Smithtown, N.Y./Smithtown). Bowlsby is a three-time all-conference selection and a section champion. He also holds Eden Prairie’s record for most wins, points, and near falls in a season. As a member of the Minnesota National Freestyle team, he won four region championships and posted two undefeated seasons. Reiter, a Suffolk County and AP scholar-athlete, captured a league championship. He also earned Suffolk County and Long Island freestyle championships.
The Quakers finished the 2004-05 season ranked 24th in the nation with a 9-5 dual record and a 4-1 mark in the Ivy League. The Red and Blue sent four grapplers to the 2005 NCAA Championships and recorded its ninth-consecutive season in which it has produced at least one All-American.
-Written by Kelly McCarthy, athletic communications assistant