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PHILADELPHIA - After a weekend off following a busy run of competition to begin the season, Penn is back on the road this weekend with a 1 p.m. tilt at No. 24 Hofstra on Sunday on Long Island. The Quakers are 4-4 this season in duals, and 1-0 in road matches. Hofstra is off to an unbeaten 8-0 dual record in 2011-12 and the Pride have won 13 consecutive dual matches dating back to Feb. 5 of 2011.
All-time, Penn is 4-7 against Hofstra, and just 1-4 when travelling to Hempstead. Last season, the two teams once again engaged in a tightly-contested dual - four of the 11 matches have been decided by five points or less. This time, the decision went to the Pride, 18-15, in a dual that featured two ties and two lead changes. The swing bouts went Hofstra's way, including a 3-1 win for No. 6 Lou Ruggirello over No. 4 Rollie Peterkin at 133 and a 4-2 win for No. 10 P.J. Gillespie over No. 18 Gabriel Burak at 165. The Quakers had a forfeit sitting and waiting to be claimed at 125, and a win at heavyweight would have flipped the score in favor of the Quakers, but Kyle Cowan came up one point short in a 5-4 decision loss to Paul Snyder.
For Penn, only three lineup spots should remain the same from last season's dual with the Pride while Hofstra may lineup as many as five returners from that dual. With the recent release of the NCAA Coaches' Panel and the top-33 at each weight heading down the home stretch of the season, 11 wrestlers tabbed by the nation's coaches as likely NCAA qualifiers will be in action, with four weights set for top-33 matches.
For the Quakers, No. 29 Lorenzo Thomas is still searching for that first true signature win of his rookie season. He is 16-7 overall with a team-leading four wins by fall but has come up short in each of his seven matches against wrestlers ranked inside the Top-33. Six of those seven of those losses have been by decision, and have come against wrestlers that currently hold NCAA Coaches' Panel rankings of No. 2, No. 5, No. 12, No. 14, No. 16, No. 25 and No. 27. He will have his chance at a signature win against No. 15 Gillespie - a returning All-American at 165 and a three-time NCAA qualifier. Gillespie is 19-5 this season with just six bonus-point wins. After winning 14 of his first 15 matches to start the season, Gillespie has dropped four of his last nine.
No. 12 Ben Clymer is the only Hofstra wrestler to 20 wins so far this season, and Penn's No. 31 Erich Smith will be looking to score a modicum of revenge in their rematch at 184 pounds. The two met last season in the dual, a 2-0 decision for Clymer on an escape and riding time. Smith is 13-11 this season, and is 3-5 in duals. Clymer, 20-5 this season, is a two-time NCAA qualifier and the defending CAA champion at 184. He has won seven matches in a row, including two tech falls and two major decisions.
Penn's only wrestler at 20 wins is senior Bryan Ortenzio at 133 pounds. Ranked No. 13 in the NCAA Coaches' Panel, Ortenzio is 20-2 this season with his only losses coming at the Midlands Championships. He is 8-0 in dual matches and owns a 9-1 win over his opponent on Sunday, No. 27 Jamie Franco. This season, Franco is 14-8 overall and is 7-3 since the calendar flipped to 2012.
Rounding out the Top-33 matches is the bout at 149 between No. 25 Steve Robertson and No. 30 Justin Accordino. Robertson is 19-5 this season - fourth-best among rookies in the EIWA, and 6-2 in dual matches. His 15 wins by decision are the most on the Quakers and fourth among all EIWA wrestlers. Accordino, an NCAA qualifier at 141 pounds in 2009, has battled injuries the past two seasons and is 16-8 this season (14-6 at 149).
Another bout to keep an eye on is at heavyweight. Penn has returned Steven Graziano to the lineup in the last two duals, and he has come through with a pair of wins - including a fall against Cornell two weeks ago. Graziano, a Long Island native who will be heading home for the match, is now 7-4 this season. One of those losses, however, came to his opponent on Sunday - Paul Snyder - at the Binghamton Open. Snyder scored a 6-3 decision in that bout and is off to a 14-7 start this season. The 2011 CAA champion at heavyweight and an NCAA qualifier, Snyder is 6-2 in dual matches this season.
125 - Karim Shafi, So. (2-3)
133 - No. 13 Bryan Ortenzio, Sr. (20-2)
141 - No. 11 Zack Kemmerer, Sr. (17-2)
149 - No. 25 Steve Robertson, Fr. (19-5)
157 - Troy Hernandez, Jr. (4-13)
165 - No. 29 Lorenzo Thomas, Fr. (16-7)
174 - Ian Korb, Fr. (12-12)
184 - No. 31 Erich Smith, Sr. (13-11)
197 - No. 8 Micah Burak, Jr. (10-3)
285 - Steven Graziano, So. (7-4)
125 - No. 12 Steve Bonnano, Jr. (19-5)
133 - No. 27 Jamie Franco, So. (14-8)
141 - Luke Vaith, So. (13-7)
149 - No. 30 Justin Accordino, Jr. (16-8)
157 - Tyler Banks, Jr. (8-8) or Vince Varela, Sr. (0-0)
165 - No. 15 P.J. Gillespie, Sr. (19-5)
174 - Jermaine John, Fr. (7-10)
184 - No. 12 Ben Clymer, Sr. (20-5)
197 - Tim Murphy, So. (10-13) or Matt Loew, So. (3-6)
285 - Paul Snyder, Jr. (14-7)
Rankings indicate NCAA Coaches' Panel