Wrestling Hopes for Title at EIWA Championships

No.20 Pennat the 103rd EIWA Championships
March 2-3, 2007
East Stroudsburg University

EIWA Web Site - Tickets, Directions

Notes in PDF Format
(includes line-ups, statistics and more)

Friday, March 2
11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.Session 1 (preliminaries,quarterfinals consolation)
5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.Session 2 (Consolations, semifinals consolataions)

Saturday, March 3
11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.Session 3 (consolation semis, place matches)
4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.Session 4 (Championship finals)

Competitors

125 #20 Matt Eveleth
133 #1 Matt Valenti
141 Brett McCurdy
149 Rick Rappo
157 Matt Dragon
165 #10 Zack Shanaman
174 #11 Matt Herrington
184 #14 Lior Zamir
197 Jack Sullivan
285 Ben Reiter

No. 20 Penn hunts for its first EIWA title since 1999 in what should be a highly-competitive EIWA Championship. The Quakers are considered among the favorites to dethrone Lehigh and bring home a title as they fight not only for hardware, but for NCAA qualifiers.

Evaluating The EIWA Field

125 lbs. - Senior Matt Eveleth, a two-time EIWA placewinner, will try to make it three. In his way, though, will be Cornell’s defending NCAA runner-up Troy Nickerson, who Eveleth lost to earlier this year, as well as Lehigh’s Matt Fisk, who Eveleth beat two weeks ago.

133 lbs. - By all accounts, 133 is Matt Valenti’s to lose, but the defending national champion will have his work cut out for him. The class may be the deepest in this year’s tournament. Cornell’s Adam Frey, ranked third in the country with just one loss, will be a big threat, but his one loss came by fall (in 1:30) to Valenti earlier this month. Robbie Preston of Harvard lost to Valenti in the final in sudden victory last year and should be a contender.

141 lbs. - Brett McCurdy may be the key to Penn’s title hopes as the sophomore makes his EIWA debut. Wrestling only half a season, McCurdy has been in some tight matches with quality opponents. Harvard’s Max Meltzer will probably be the top seed, and Lehigh’s Matt Ciasulli, Columbia’s Sal Tirico, Army’s Matt Kyler and American’s Kyle Borshoff are all potential placewinners.

149 lbs. - Rick Rappo will take the place of an injured Rob Hitschler. The 141-pounder has been wrestling up a weight for most of the past month and has done well, most recently scoring a 17-5 major over Lehigh’s Jeff Santo. But several nationally-ranked competitors will be in his way - Jordan Leen of Cornell and J.P. O’Connor from Harvard are the big names.

157 lbs. - Matt Dragon won an EIWA crown as a freshman at 149 lbs., and could very well do it again at 157. One of his key opponents, defending 157-pound champ Andrew Flanagan of Harvard, is out due to injury, potentially opening the door. Flanagan represents Dragon’s lone EIWA loss this season.

165 lbs. - Before the season, it was fair to say Zack Shanaman wasn’t on a lot of radar screens. Now, the sophomore is ranked 10th in the nation and has to be considered one of the favorites to win an EIWA title. Key among his wins was his upset over then-10th ranked Steve Anceravage of Cornell. Anceravage is now 11th, and Mike Cannon from American is 12th in the nation.

174 lbs. - Matt Herrington has been an All-American, but has never won an EIWA title. He hopes to change that this year. Like 165, the EIWA owns the 10th, 11th and 12th national rankings at 174 with Columbia’s Matt Palmer, Herrington and Navy’s Matt Stoplinski, respectively. Joey Hooker of Cornell is also ranked, at 18th.

184 lbs. - This weight class is considered wide open, with Lior Zamir representing Penn. He’s had mixed results against EIWA competition this year, beating Louis Caputo of Harvard but losing to Josh Arnone (Cornell), Justin Barent (Columbia) and most recently to David Craig (Lehigh) in sudden victory.

197 lbs. - This class could be one of the most exciting at EIWA’s. Cornell’s Jerry Rinaldi, ranked third in the nation, has to be the favorite, but Matt Cassidy upset him last year to win the conference crown. Then there is American’s Josh Glenn, ranked fourth in the nation and last year’s 184 champ, who moves up. Jack Sullivan will hope to place and give Penn some team points.

285 lbs. - Heavyweight is wide open as the EIWA’s two best big men, Bode Ogunwole and Adam LoPiccolo, are out of the tournament. Ed Prendergast of Navy, ranked ninth in the country, will be the favorite, with Paul Weibel and Kevin Lester gunning for spots in the final. Penn’s Ben Reiter could place here, which would crucial to Penn’s hopes for a team title.

Valenti Breaks Program Wins Record
Senior Matt Valenti became Penn’s all-time leader in wins at Lehigh, earning his 129th career victory with a 6-0 decision over Seth Ciasulli. Valenti surpassed former NCAA champion Brett Matter, who compiled 128 wins in his outstanding career in the Red and Blue.

Herrington Nears 100
Matt Valenti isn’t the only one climbing up the all-time wins list - teammate Matt Herrington is now ninth all-time with 92 wins. Herrington has a chance to become just the seventh grappler in Penn history to reach 100 wins.

Shanaman Emerges
One of the most reliable point-winners for the Quakers lately has been sophomore 165-pounder Zack Shanaman. The 10th-ranked grappler (he jumped up three weeks ago from 17th) has won eight in a row — five by major decision — and knocked off then-No. 10 Steve Anceravage of Cornell. Shanaman is 23-10 this season.

In The Rankings
Penn is ranked 20th in the nation as a team this week. The Quakers also have individuals ranked in five of the 10 weight classes. Three grapplers — Matt Eveleth (20th at 125), Zack Shanaman (10th at 165) and Lior Zamir (14th at 184) came into the season unranked. Meanwhile, Matt Valenti (First at 133) and Matt Herrington (11th at 174) have been familiar faces in the rankings throughout the season.

Quakers Beat Lehigh
Penn headed into a hostile Stabler Arena having not beaten Lehigh in its last four tries, but left the winner after a 21-15 victory. The result was in doubt heading into the final two bouts at 149 and 157, but Rick Rappo scored a major decision over Jeff Santo to put Penn up 18-15 and Matt Dragon locked up the team win with a 6-4 decision over Dave Nakasone.

Penn Ties Nebraska
Penn and Nebraska came into their meet right next to each other in the national rankings, at 20th and 19th, respectively, and it turned out the two teams were even closer together than that. Penn wrestled to its first tie since 1999, a 17-17 stalemate, at The Palestra. Penn led early before Nebraska came back to win the final three bouts at 141, 149 and 157 to tie the meet.

Columbia Stuns the Quakers
Going into their meet on Feb. 10, Penn hadn’t lost to Columbia since 1993. Walking out of University Gym, that was no longer true. The Lions stunned the Quakers, 22-12, with upsets over three of Penn’s six ranked grapplers as Matt Eveleth, Matt Herrington and Lior Zamir suffered setbacks.

Valenti Pins Frey
No. 1 Matt Valenti’s match with No. 3 Adam Frey was one of the most highly anticipated in EIWA wrestling this year, and — at least if you were a Penn fan — the result didn’t disappoint. Halfway through the first period, Valenti turned a 2-on-1 into a single leg and Frey tried to funk out of it. Before he could roll all the way over, Valenti capitalized on Frey’s back being down and flattened him out, scoring the pin at the 1:30 mark.

The 2007 National Duals
Penn turned in a 1-2 performance at National Duals, where it lost to then-No. 1 Missouri and then-No. 9 Central Michigan and beat West Virginia. The Quakers were making their first appearance at the Duals since 2004. Several individual efforts stood out — 125-pounder Matt Eveleth won all three of his matches, two of them by fall; Matt Dragon continued his winning ways at 157 with a trio of victories; and Rick Rappo scored a major upset at 141 with his win over No. 14 Eric Kruger of Central Michigan.

Three Champs at Millersville
Jeff Zannetti, Jack Sullivan and Trey McLean each won a title at the Shorty Hitchcock Open at Millersville University Jan. 5. Zannetti took the 165 title with a 5-0 record, while Sullivan came out on top of a pair of 3-2 decisions in his last two matches to win at 197. McLean, making his career debut with the Quakers, won the heavyweight bracket with a 3-0 record.

Rappo Wins at Wilkes
Rick Rappo earned his first career tournament title at the Wilkes Open on Dec. 27, running off three wins to claim the 141-pound championship. Rappo avenged an early-season loss to BU’s Carlo Farrandino, 13-7, in the final. Andrew Coles also placed at the tournament, coming in third at 165 lbs.

Wittmeyer Wins at Penn State
Senior Brock Wittmeyer captured the 165-lb. title at the Nittany Lion Open on Dec. 3. Wittmeyer put up a 6-0 record at the tournament, defeating Penn State’s Dave Rella, 4-1, in the final.

Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational
Penn turned in an outstanding third-place finish in Las Vegas, finishing with 100.5 team points, just behind Michigan’s 109. Missouri ran away with the competition, finishing with 157 points. Matt Valenti and Matt Herrington were each runners-up in their weight classes, while Matt Eveleth finished third at 125 lbs. Zack Shanaman finished fourth at 165 and Lior Zamir was the seventh-place finisher at 184.

The Northeast Duals
The Quakers split their four meets at the Northeast Duals, beating Binghamton and Bloomsburg while falling to No. 12 Central Michigan and No. 1 Minnesota. Individually, Matt Valenti and Matt Dragon wrestled well, both winning all of their matches. Dragon’s day was highlighted with his match with No. 6 CP Schlatter of Minnesota. Although Dragon won by injury default late in the third period, he had the match in hand with the score at 4-4 and riding time locked up. Matt Herrington also beat a ranked opponent, defeating No. 12 Gabe Dretsch of Minnesota with a 10-7 decision.

NWCA All-Star Classic
Senior Matt Valenti scored a 6-5 win over No. 5 Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State, while classmate Matt Herrington fell to No. 3 James Yonushonis of Penn State, 5-4, Nov. 20 at the NWCA All-Star Classic in Dallas. It was the first participation in the event for the pair, who were both All-Americans last season. Valenti took an early lead on Scott and secured the riding time advantage to negate two late takedowns by Scott. Herrington led for most of the match until Yonushonis tied it in the third and scored a takedown. Despite getting the riding time point, Herrington still turned up on the losing end.

The Keystone Classic
Penn crowned two champions and came in second in the team standings at the 2006 Keystone Classic. Despite being without five of its 10 starters for various reasons, the Quakers turned in a very strong showing. At 125, it was all Penn as senior Matt Eveleth beat freshman Rollie Peterkin in the final, while sophomore Matt Dragon rolled through the 157-lb. bracket to earn his first Keystone title. The Quakers turned in four second-place finishers, as well — Peterkin, Brock Wittmeyer (165), Colin Hitschler (184), and Jack Sullivan (197).

At the Michigan State Open
The Quakers turned in a successful performance at the Michigan State Open on Nov. 19, and senior Matt Herrington captured the title at 174 lbs. Herrington dominated the field, with two falls and two major decisions en route to a 5-2 decision in the final over Indiana’s Trevor Perry. All told, Penn grapplers won 64 bouts and won 11 places at the open. Matt Valenti was the second-place finisher at 133 lbs.; Rob Hitschler and Lior Zamir each took fourth; Cesar Grajales, Thomas Shovlin and Gene Zannetti grabbed fifth-place spots; and Colin Hitschler and Jack Sullivan each earned seventh-place showings. Zack Shanaman and Jeff Zannetti were set to wrestle for fifth place at 165 lbs., but the match was declared a double forfeit. Matt Dragon finished eighth at 157 lbs. No team standings were kept at the event.

Preseason EIWA Poll
Penn was selected third in the preseason EIWA coaches’ poll. Cornell was picked to win, with Lehigh second. Ivy League foes Columbia and Harvard were selected fourth and fifth, respectively, behind the Quakers.

Head Coach Zeke Jones
Zeke Jones begins his second season at the helm of Penn wrestling after a wildly successful freshman campaign. Jones led the Quakers to an 11-5 dual-meet record and a 12th-place finish at NCAA championships with a program-record 51 points, while coaching a national champion and another All-America. Jones was named the 2006 Rookie Coach of the Year by Amateur Wrestling News.

Welcoming... Rob Eiter
Rob Eiter begins his first season as an assistant coach with the Quakers after serving as an assistant at Big Ten power Northwestern for the past four seasons. Eiter is a two-time Olympian who brings a wealth of knowledge to Philadelphia. Last season, he helped the Wildcats to a 13th-place finish at NCAA’s with three All-Americas. Prior to his time in Evanston, Eiter was an assistant at Clarion, where he helped Sheldon Thomas win a national title and coached four-time All-America Bryan Stout. Eiter also coached the 1999 women’s world championship team. As a wrestler, Either was an Olympian in 1992 and 1996 and is a five-time U.S. Open national champion and two-time World Cup silver medalist.

The Captains
Matt Valenti and Rob Hitschler have been selected captains for the 2006-07 season.

City of Brotherly Love
For the second year in a row, Penn has three sets of brothers on its roster — Colin and Rob Hitschler, Andy and Matt Valenti and Jeff and Gene Zannetti. Penn has had 14 sets of brothers compete on the same roster throughout its history.

Quaker Notemeal
The Quakers have been nationally-ranked every week since Dec. 10, 2005 when it broke in at 22nd in the nation ... Penn has faced two No. 1-ranked teams and five top-12 teams this season ... Penn’s win over Lehigh was its first over a ranked team since the 2003-04 season, when it upset No. 3 Iowa State at the National Duals ... Matt Valenti’s fall over Adam Frey was his first of the season ... Matt Eveleth leads the team with seven falls this year.

Next Time Out
Penn will compete in the NCAA Championships held at the Palace of Auburn Hills outside Detroit on March 15-17.

Download: eiwa notes.pdf