Wrestling Ready for NCAA Championships

No.18 Pennat the NCAA Championships
March 15-17, 2007
The Palace of Auburn Hills - Auburn Hills, Mich.

Live Results
Official NCAA Site

Penn PostseasonGuidein PDF Format
(includesprofiles, statistics and more)

Schedule and TV Information
Session I, 3/15 -
Pigtails/First Round,11 a.m.
Session II, 3/15 - Prelims, Cons. Prelims,6:30 p.m.
Session III, 3/16 - Quarterfinals, Consolations,11 a.m.
Session IV, 3/16 - Semifinals, Consolations,7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Session V, 3/17 - Cons., 3rd-8th Medal round,10 a.m. (ESPNU)
Session VI, 3/17 - Championship Finals,8 p.m. (ESPN)

Penn NCAA Qualifiers

125 #12 Matt Eveleth(12th seed)
133 #1 Matt Valenti(2nd seed)
157 #20 Matt Dragon
165 #10 Zack Shanaman
174 #10 Matt Herrington(10th seed)
184 #15 Lior Zamir

Penn heads into the NCAA Championships looking to improve upon its 12th-place team finish a year ago. Among the wrestlers making an appearance are returning national champion Matt Valenti and 2006 All-American Matt Herrington. Valenti will try to become Penn’s first two-time champion in 65 years.

Who’s In
Six Quakers have earned NCAA bids by virtue of their EIWA tournament performance. Matt Eveleth (125), Matt Valenti (133) and Matt Dragon (157) all got here by winning EIWA titles. Matt Herrington (174) was third and earned an automatic bid. Zack Shanaman (165) and Lior Zamir (184) finished fifth and earned wild cards. Valenti earned a second seed, Herrington a 10th, and Eveleth a 12th.

Good to See You Again
Both Matt Valenti and Matt Herrington are making their fourth NCAA appearances. Valenti has a national title and two All-America honors to his credit, while Herrington had a fifth-place All-America finish last year. Matt Dragon makes his second appearance as a sophomore after reaching the Round of 12 last year. Matt Eveleth, Zack Shanaman and Lior Zamir are making their NCAA debuts.

ESPN Covers the Tournament
For the first time, ESPN will provide coverage of not just the finals, but also the semifinals and medal round. Sessions IV and V will be broadcast live on ESPNU as well as on the Internet via ESPN360. The finals, Session VI, will be broadcast live on ESPN and ESPN-HD at 8 p.m. on March 17.

EIWA Wrap-Up
Penn placed third as a team and crowned three champions at the 103rd EIWA Championships at East Stroudsburg University on March 2-3. Matt Valenti and Matt Dragon, the top seeds at 133 and 157, respectively, won titles as expected, but it was 125-pounder Matt Eveleth who stunned No. 2 Troy Nickerson of Cornell in the final with a 5-3 victory. Eveleth, who had lost by technical fall to Nickerson less than a month earlier, caught the Cornell grappler in a third-period headlock and took him down, earning three back points in the process. He nearly pinned the defending NCAA runner-up, and held him down to the buzzer to win. Meanwhile, 174-pounder and returning All-America Matt Herrington placed third to qualify for nationals, and 165-pounder Zack Shanaman and 184-pounder Lior Zamir each took fifth and earned one of the EIWA’s seven wild-card bids. Brett McCurdy also came in fifth, at 141 pounds, and was named the first alternate.

Eveleth Earns EIWA Most Outstanding Wrestler Honor
For his upset of Troy Nickerson, Matt Eveleth was awarded the EIWA tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award. It wasn’t just his win over Nickerson, though - Eveleth had a fantastic tournament, pinning Ryan Fitzgerald in the first round, beating Jasen Borschoff 7-2, and taking out NCAA qualifier Matt Fisk 4-1 in the semis. Eveleth became the first Penn grappler since Brett Matter in 2000 to earn MOW honors.

Valenti Wins Fletcher Trophy
At the end of the EIWA tournament, Matt Valenti was awarded the John Fletcher Memorial Trophy, given to the senior who earned the most points at the EIWA tournament over a career. Valenti, with three titles and a second-place finish, easily won with 66.5 career points, becoming the fifth Quaker to win the award.

Valenti Named Unanimous Ivy Wrestler Of the Year
Matt Valenti was unanimously voted the Ivy League Wrestler of the Year on March 8, capping off an outstanding 2006-07 regular season. Valenti, who is a three-time first-team All-Ivy honoree, earned the award by virtue of his 27-2 record and perfect 16-0 dual-meet mark.

Six Named All-Ivy
Five others joined Valenti as All-Ivy. Matt Dragon and Zack Shanaman earned first-team honors, Matt Eveleth was a second-teamer, and Matt Herrington and Jack Sullivan were honorable mention All-Ivy.

Valenti Breaks Program Wins Record
Senior Matt Valenti became Penn’s all-time leader in wins Feb. 18 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 96 wins. Herrington has a chance to become just the seventh grappler in Penn history to reach 100 wins.

In The Rankings
Penn finishes the season ranked 18th in the nation as a team. The Quakers also have individuals ranked in six of the 10 weight classes. Three grapplers — Matt Eveleth (12th at 125), Zack Shanaman (16th at 165) and Lior Zamir (15th at 184) — came into the season unranked. Meanwhile, Matt Valenti (First at 133), Matt Dragon (20th at 157) and Matt Herrington (10th 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.

Head Coach Zeke Jones
Zeke Jones is in 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 is in 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.

All-America Coaches
The members of Penn’s coaching staff are no strangers to NCAA success. Zeke Jones was a three-time All-America at Arizona State, while assistant coach Josh Henson was an All-America in 2002 at 165 pounds while wrestling for Penn. Volunteer assistant coach Rick Springman was a two-time All-America for the Quakers, in 2000 and 2002, at 174 pounds.

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 as a team have been nationally-ranked every week since Dec. 10, 2005 when it broke in at 22nd in the nation ... Penn 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 in the Penn-Cornell dual was his first of the season ... Matt Eveleth leads the team with eight falls this year.

Download: NCAA notes.pdf