Live Webcast on Saturday
Penn Wrestling on Twitter | Penn Wrestling on Facebook
PHILADELPHIA - The time to separate from the pack has begun for Penn's wrestling team as the Quakers begin the stretch run in earnest with Senior Day this weekend as part of a two-day home-and-away swing in the penultimate weekend of the regular season.
The Quakers host their final home match of the season on Saturday when Columbia comes to The Palestra (1 p.m.) before the Red and Blue hit the road to Lewisburg for an EIWA tilt with Bucknell on Sunday (12 p.m.)
The Red and Blue are 5-6 in duals this season, and 1-2 inside the Ivy League. After splitting a road trip to FollowNew England last weekend, Penn will look for a much better effort out of the gates to begin competition this weekend.
At Harvard, in a match which ultimately ended in a 23-19 loss for Penn, the Quakers stumbled in the first three matches, putting themselves in a 12-0 hole that was too big to overcome. Two weeks ago, a similar story unfolded at Hofstra, with Penn faltering in the first half, affording Hofstra a 17-3 lead at the conclusion of five matches that Penn wasn't able to overturn.
Penn should return to its normal lineup this weekend after shuffling the deck a bit last time on the mats. No. 12 Zack Kemmerer and true freshman Steve Robertson should be back in action after missing both duals in New England and should stabilize proceedings for Penn at the lower weights.
For Kemmerer, his storied career inside The Palestra will come to a close on Saturday as part of Senior Day festivities. A 2011 All-American who won two Keystone Classic titles on his home mats, Kemmerer enters the weekend with 109 wins over his career - tied for seventh all-time by a Penn grappler. His next win will move him past Cesar Grajales and into sole possession of sixth place.
Another of Kemmerer's classmates is making a run up the all-time wins chart as Bryan Ortenzio closes in on 100 wins. Ortenzio, ranked No. 14 in the country, has a 96-49 record over his career to put himself in a tie for 10th place all-time by a Quaker.
Erich Smith has only competed for two seasons with the Quakers after transferring from Michigan before the start of the 2010-11 campaign, but has been a full-time starter at 184 pounds since midway through January of 2011. This season, Smith is 13-14 overall, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Midlands Championships in his best performance as a Quaker.
The fourth senior set to be honored on Saturday is Zack Ellis. A versatile competitor who has wrestled at 125, 133, 141 and 149 pounds over his four seasons, Ellis started in Penn's 2010 duals with Princeton and Lehigh and earlier this season scored a major decision over Harvard's Alexis Wagener at the Binghamton Open.
Following the conclusion of Senior Day festivities, Penn will look to halt a Columbia team which has its sights set on overtaking Penn for second place in the Ivy League. While there are no bouts scheduled to take place between a pair of top-20 wrestlers according to InterMat, a look at the most recent NCAA Coaches Panel shows two matches with a pair of Top-33 grapplers and 10 wrestlers overall voted in the Top-33 this week.
Robertson will wrestle his seventh match inside the Top-33 on Saturday as he takes on No. 19 Steve Santos. Ranked No. 26, Robertson is 2-4 against Top-33 wrestlers this season as part of his 19-6 start. Santos is 15-5 this season, with wins in 11 straight matches. Earlier this season, he scored a 4-1 decision over No. 4 Donnie Vinson of Binghamton.
Ortenzio's last match inside The Palestra will also be a top-33 battle as he will defend his No. 14 ranking against No. 31 Kyle Gilchrist. Ortenzio is 22-3 this season, tops among Quakers in wins and he has been very successful against Columbia over the years with a 4-0 record against the Lions. This will be his first match with Gilchrist, a senior who is 20-10 overall with 23 of those 30 matches ending via decision.
An interesting battle is set for 174 where Ian Korb could take on Stephen West. Korb is 14-13 overall as a true freshman for the Quakers, and was not voted into the Top-33 in the most recent Coaches Panel. Korb has had six matches against current Top-33 wrestlers, including a win over No. 26 Nate Brown of Lehigh, and his match with No. 31 Stephen West on Saturday will be his seventh. West is 24-10 overall, and has placed seventh and eighth at the EIWA Championships in his first two seasons.
Heavyweight Steve Graziano has been on a tear of late, winning five straight matches since returning to the starting lineup against Rider on Jan. 8. Overall, Graziano has won eight of his last nine matches and has wrestled his way into contention for a Top-33 spot. His opponent on Saturday is returning NCAA qualifier Kevin Lester. In 201011, Lester finished fourth at EIWAs and was a perfect 5-0 in ivy duals to earn first-team All-Ivy honors. Graziano is 3-0 this season in Ivy duals and could secure his own first-team All-Ivy award with a win over Lester who is 23-8 this year.
On Sunday, Penn is right back on the mats with a trip to EIWA foe Bucknell. Lorenzo Thomas will have a challenge on Sunday as he will look to improve on his No. 29 ranking according to the Coaches Panel against No. 30 Corey Lear. A junior, Lear is 12-6 this season with four wins by fall. Last weekend, Lear defeated the third-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds, Ganbayar Sanjaa of American, 8-5, in Bucknell's dual with the Eagles.
Penn's Probable Lineup for Columbia/Bucknell
125 - Karim Shafi (2-6)
133 - #14 Bryan Ortenzio (22-3)
141 - #12 Zack Kemmerer (17-3) or Geoffrey Bostany (5-10)
149 - Steve Robertson (19-6) or Mark Pinero (12-6)
157 - Troy Hernandez (5-15)
165 - Lorenzo Thomas (18-8)
174 - Ian Korb (14-13) or Canaan Bethea (9-0)
184 - Erich Smith (13-14)
197 - #10 Micah Burak (13-3)
285 - Steven Graziano (10-4)
Columbia's Projected Lineup
125: Robert Dyar (12-14)
133: Kyle Gilchrist (20-10)
141: Matt Bystol (18-13)
149: Steve Santos (15-5)
157: Jake O'Hara (21-10)
165: Adam Fondale (19-9)/Eren Civan (6-6)
174: Stephen West (24-10)
184: Shane Hughes (15-9)
197: Nick Mills (9-10)
285: Kevin Lester (23-8)
Bucknell's Projected Lineup
125: Austin Miller (17-11)
133: Shawn Armato (2-18)
141: Derrik Russell (10-15)
149: Alex Pellicciotti (11-11)
157: John Regan (15-10)
165: Corey Lear (12-6)
174: Stephen McPeek (16-15)
184: Jamie Westwood (8-17)
197: Tyler Lyster (8-20)