Wrestling Arrives in St. Louis for NCAA Championships

ST. LOUIS – We are less than 24 hours away from the start of the 2008 NCAA Wrestling Championships, and the intensity is starting to pick up amongst the competitors.

Penn’s travel party of eight wrestlers, four coaches, a trainer and me arrived in St. Louis yesterday afternoon and checked in to the Hilton at the Ballpark hotel in downtown St. Louis. The hotel is home to all the teams in action this week and the afternoon yesterday was filled with members of the wrestling community reconnecting and wishing each other well. As the name of our hotel suggests, we are staying adjacent to Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. A unique aspect of the Hilton is that some of the rooms have views directly into the stadium, making them valuable assets when the Cardinals are home. Alas, it is still Spring Training, so we don’t have a birds-eye view of any games. Other rooms in the hotel, including the one shared by trainer Keith Davis and I, look out upon the Mississippi River and the historic Gateway Arch. I have never been to St. Louis or seen the Mississippi River up close before, so forgive me for dropping a few landmarks on you. If the day allows today, I will be making my way up the Arch via tram and getting my tourist fix out of the way before wrestling starts.

Speaking of wrestling, we are at the Scottrade Center at the moment for some practice. There are eight mats set up on the floor and each one is filled with pairs of wrestlers drilling and working on some last-minute techniques before the tournament begins tomorrow.

The Quakers are set up on mat one, while I can make out wrestlers from Nebraska, Navy, Army, Missouri and N.C. State out here as well.

While you can get all your info on the NCAA Championships pertaining to Penn here at www.pennathletics.com, the best source online for complete coverage of the tournament is www.intermatwrestle.com. They have breakdowns of each weight class including a look at the top seeds and unseeded wrestlers to watch out for. A few highlights from current coverage by InterMat ...

- Cesar Grajales is chosen as a “Bad Draw”. Don’t let the name mislead you. A “Bad Draw” is a wrestler the top seeds do not want to face. Grajales earned his selection based on his 8-3 record against NCAA Qualifiers this season, including a win over J.P. O’Connor of Harvard, the three seed, in the EIWA final two weeks ago.

- Lior Zamir was also chosen as a “Bad Draw” at 184 pounds. Zamir is called “battle-tested and capable” and could pose problems for top-seeded and undefeated Jake Varner in the first round.

- Rollie Peterkin, the #9-seed at 125 pounds, is considered “exciting to watch” and his possible second round match with Northwestern’s Brandon Precin of Northwestern is eagerly anticipated by the crew at InterMat.

After the guys finish on the mats, I hope to grab some time with the team and head coach Zeke Jones to look ahead to tomorrow’s first round. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the week.