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PHILADELPHIA – For the 56th time, Penn and No. 23 Lehigh will engage on the wrestling mat Dec. 8 as the Quakers host the Mountain Hawks at The Palestra for a 2 p.m. dual.
Penn is 2-1 in dual meets this season, while Lehigh enters with a 4-3 record in dual meets to start the 2013-14 campaign.
The Quakers own 10 wins in the all-time series over the Mountain Hawks, with six of those wins coming in Philadelphia and five in The Palestra. After Lehigh controlled the early portion of the rivalry, the Quakers have bounced back to make it a true battle, winning seven of the last 18 dating back to the renewing of the rivalry in 1996.
Last year in Bethlehem, the Quakers stormed into Grace Hall and knocked off the 21ts-ranked Mountain Hawks, 24-12, for the program’s first win at Leeman-Turner Arena since 2007. The Red and Blue won the first four matches in the dual to build a 15-0 lead, and used a last-second win from Casey Kent and a win from Canaan Bethea up a weight at 197 to seal the win which tied for the second largest margin of victory for the Quakers over their Keystone State rivals.
There are no scheduled rematches on the docket this weekend, with each squad setting up new-look lineups following the graduation of many stalwarts. Only C.J. Cobb, Andrew Lenzi, Casey Kent and Steven Graziano are likely to compete for the second year in a row in the Penn-Lehigh dual on the Quakers’ side, while Joey Napoli and John Bolich are the only repeat entrants on Lehigh’s list of probables.
A total of seven wrestlers ranked inside this week’s Amateur Wrestling News Top-20 at their respective weights are set to compete this weekend, but there are no weights which are set to have matches between a pair of ranked wrestlers. Penn’s C.J. Cobb had been ranked No. 10 at 141 pounds, but has dropped out after missing the first three weeks of the season with injury. If he had stayed in the lineup – and the rankings – he would give the dual a “marquee matchup” in terms of ranked wrestlers as Lehigh boasts No. 16 Laike Gardiner at 141. Cobb is on Penn’s probable list for the weekend, and could make his 2013-14 debut against Lehigh.
Ranked wrestlers notwithstanding, there are plenty of interesting matches which will go a long way to determining the outcome of the dual. At 125, Caleb Richardson enters the dual with a 6-2 record, with both losses to top-10 opponents. His opponent, Darian Cruz, is 5-3, also with two losses top top-1-0 wrestlers. Each has a 3-1 win over Bloomsburg’s Sean Boylan to their recent credit.
At 149 pounds, Andrew Lenzi will look to replicate his performance against the Mountain Hawks from last season where his 3-2 win over No. 19 Shane Welsh helped propel the Quakers to victory. Welsh has graduated, and in his place wrestles redshirt freshman Mitch Minotti. He is 8-4 this season, and posted a 38-10 record as a redshirt last season. Lenzi is off to an 8-3 start this season.
Lehigh will line up the No. 8 wrestler at 157 pounds in Joey Napoli. The defending EIWA champion, Napoli is off to a 7-0 start this season with two wins by fall. If Ray Bethea continues to get the starting spot at 157, he will be wrestling his third top-10 opponent of the season. Bethea is 1-1 against top-10 foes this year, and has a 10-3 overall record. Steve Robertson could get the start at 157 for the Red and Blue, and enters with a 9-3 overall record and a 2-0 record against Lehigh in his career.
At heavyweight, Steven Graziano is looking to right his season as he has dropped five of his last six matches after winning four of five to start 2013-14. An NCAA qualifier in 2013, Graziano is 1-1 against Lehigh wrestlers all-time. His opponent is likely to be redshirt freshman Doug Vollaro. 18-6 last year as a redshirt, Vollaro is 3-3 this season with wins in his last three bouts.
No. 9 Lorenzo Thomas (10-2), No. 13 Casey Kent (7-1) and No. 19 Frank Mattiace (10-3) will give Penn ranked wrestlers in the upper weights after Lehigh has the edge in ranked grapplers in the lower weights. Thomas has a team-high five wins by fall this season and has already amassed 12 wins by pin in his career. Kent is coming off a 21- major decision over then-No. 7 Josh Veltre of Bloomsburg and has three wins with bonus points this season. Mattiace, a true freshman, has four bonus-point wins this season, and has already wrestled five Top-20 opponents in his short career.
Penn Probable Lineup
125: Caleb Richardson (Fr.) 6-2
133: Ken Bade (Fr.) 4-5
141: Jeff Canfora (Jr.) 7-5 or C.J. Cobb (Jr.) 0-0
149: Andrew Lenzi (Sr.) 8-3
157: Ray Bethea (So.) 10-3 or Steve Robertson (Jr.) 9-3
165: No. 13 Casey Kent (So.) 7-1
174: Zach Agostino (Sr.) 6-4 or Brad Wukie (Sr.) 8-4
184: No. 9 Lorenzo Thomas (Jr.) 10-2
197: No. 19 Frank Mattiace (Fr.) 10-3
285: Steven Graziano (Sr.) 5-5
Lehigh Probable Lineup
125: Darian Cruz (Fr.) 5-3
133: No. 7 Mason Beckman (So.) 7-0
141: No. 16 Laike Gardiner (So.) 8-3
149: Mitch Minotti (Fr.) 8-4
157: No. 8 Joey Napoli (Sr.) 7-0
165: Brian Brill (Fr.) 9-5
174: No. 18 Elliot Riddick (Fr.) 8-5
184: Zach Diekel (Fr.) 13-6
197: John Bollich (So.) 7-6
285: Doug Vollaro (Fr.) 3-3