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PHILADELPHIA – Penn should need no motivation when it steps into The Palestra this weekend, with No. 4 Cornell on the docket as the Quakers open Ivy League action. The 11-time defending Ivy League champion Big Red are already 2-0 in Ivy duals this season, and Penn will look to hand the Big Red their first loss in Ivy duals since Feb. 2, 2002.
Dating back to the 1986-87 season, Penn and Cornell have had at least a share of every Ivy League championship. The two schools have combined for 24 outright titles and have shared the title twice. Only Harvard, which was part of a three-way tie with the Quakers and Big Red in 2000-01 has had a glimpse of the crown since the 86-87 season.
For Penn, a win over the Big Red would mark the second-ever win over a Top-Five opponent in program history. The lone such win came during the 2003-04 season, a 26-15 win over No. 3 Iowa State on Jan. 17 at the National Duals in Cleveland. Since then, Penn has dropped 23 consecutive duals to Top-10 opponents and nine to Top-Five foes.
The Quakers will be looking to bounce back following a lackluster performance in a 21-13 loss to Army on Sunday in The Palestra. The Quakers found themselves in a 13-0 hole through three matches, and were never able to find any traction as a team. Bright spots were the continued success of No. 13 Lorenzo Thomas who improved to 6-2 in duals – each win with bonus points – and No. 17 Casey Kent who improved to 7-0 in duals at 165 pounds this season.
Thomas will find himself in a key battle on Saturday as Cornell lines up No. 2 Gabe Dean. The freshman rocked the wrestling world in early January with a 7-4 win over then-No. 1 Ed Ruth of Penn State – Ruth’s first loss in over two years. Thomas and Dean have not met while both have been enrolled in college, but the two split a pair of meetings last year while competing unattached.
Another interesting match to keep an eye on is at 125 pounds where Caleb Richardson is slated to take on No. 1 Nahshon Garrett. Richardson spent the 2011-12 season wrestling for the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club in the Ithaca region and is familiar with Garrett who was also competing for FLWC at that time. Richardson has not competed since the Southern Scuffle, and will have quite the welcome back to competition in 2013 NCAA third-place finisher Garrett. The Ivy League and EIWA Rookie of the Year last season, Garrett is the defending EIWA champion at 125 and is 63-6 in his collegiate career.
The only two potential rematches from last year’s 24-9 Cornell win come at 149 pounds and 285 pounds. Last year, Andrew Lenzi was defeated by then-No. 14 Chris Villalonga, 5-1. At heavyweight, Steven Graziano suffered a 4-0 loss to Jacob Aiken-Phillips. The week prior, Graziano had scored a 5-2 win of his own over Aiken-Phillips at the Shorty Hitchcock Open.
Last year, Casey Kent had to deal with No. 1 Kyle Dake in the dual meet, hanging with the veteran through the first period before Dake found the fall in the second. This year, Kent has already met his likely opponent, No. 10 Dylan Palacio, at the Southern Scuffle. The quarterfinal bout went Palacio’s way, 4-1, with all the points coming in the third period.
The Big Red are 7-0 in dual meets this season, scoring an average of 30.7 points in those seven wins. Only No. 7 Illinois has been close with Cornell, the Big Red escaping with an 18-15 win at the Grapple at the Garden with a win at heavyweight.
Penn Probable Lineup
125: Caleb Richardson, Fr. (9-6)
133: Ken Bade, Fr. (6-10)
141: Jeff Canfora, Jr. (13-9)
149: Andrew Lenzi, Sr. (9-7)
157: Ray Bethea, So. (14-7) or Steve Robertson, Jr. (15-6)
165: No. 17 Casey Kent, So. (13-4)
174: Brad Wukie, Sr. (8-5) or Zach Agostino, Sr. (7-8)
184: No. 13 Lorenzo Thomas, Jr. (17-6)
197: Frank Mattiace, Fr. (13-8)
285: Steven Graziano, Sr. (7-12) or Anthony DiLonardo, Jr. (4-7)
Cornell Probable Lineup
125: #1 Nahshon Garrett, So. (20-1)
133: #14 Mark Grey, Fr. (18-4)
141: #5 Mike Nevinger, Sr. (7-1)
149: #8 Chris Villalonga, Sr. (22-2) or Conner David, Sr. (6-3)
157: #7 Brian Realbuto, Fr. (25-4)
165: #10 Dylan Palacio, Fr. (20-6)
174: Duke Pickett, So. (13-4)
184: #2 Gabe Dean, Fr. (25-2)
197: Jace Bennett, Jr. (20-7)
285: Jacob Aiken-Phillips, Jr. (14-6) or Stryker Lane, Sr. (9-7)