Wrestling Ready For NCAA's Best at National Duals

No. 14 Penn at the NWCA Cliff Keen National Duals
Jan. 13-14, 2007
UNI Dome - University of Northern Iowa

Video: LiveSportsVideo.com
Radio: TakedownRadio.com

First Round Match - No. 14 Penn vs. No. 1 Missouri
Jan. 13 -9 a.m. CST

Second Round/Consolation Match - No. 14 Penn vs. No. 8 Northwestern/West Virginia
Jan. 13 - 1 p.m. CST

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

No. 14 Penn will compete in the 2007 Cliff Keen/NWCA National Duals at the University of Northern Iowa this weekend. For the Quakers, it is the first appearance in the tournament since 2004, when they made a run towards an eighth-place finish. They will face No. 1 Missouri in the first round — the second No. 1 team the Quakers have faced this season (Minnesota being the other).

The 2007 National Duals
Sixteen teams will be competing at the 2007 NWCA National Duals, with 13 of them ranked in the top 25 and nine in the top 10. In addition to No. 14 Penn and unranked host Northern Iowa, the attendees are Missouri (1st), Minnesota (2nd), Hofstra (3rd), Oklahoma State (4th), Iowa (5th), Iowa State (6th), Oklahoma (7th), Northwestern (8th), Central Michigan (9th), Michigan (11th), Cornell (13th), Nebraska (20th), West Virginia (NR) and UC-Davis (NR).

Penn Historically in the National Duals
Penn has not appeared in the National Duals since 2004, when the Quakers finished eighth. That year, unseeded Penn stunned third-ranked Iowa State in the opening round, 26-15, before falling to Penn State, 25-15, in the second round. The Quakers took out West Virginia, 21-18, before falling to Hofstra, 23-15, and Minnesota, 22-15, in the seventh-place dual. Overall, this is the Quakers’ sixth trip to the tournament, and they have finished as high as eighth, in 2004 and 2002. Penn also competed in 1997, 1998 and 2000.

No Strangers To National Duals
Although it has been three years since Penn competed in the National Duals, four members of the team that beat No. 3 Iowa State in 2004 are wrestling for the 2006-07 edition of the Quakers. An Iowa State forfeit at 125 threw the line-up in disarray — Matt Valenti, who was a 125-pounder at the time, wrestled up at 133 and won a 9-3 decision; Matt Eveleth, who wrestled 133 then, lost 9-2 wrestling up at 141; Rob Hitschler was on the losing end of a tech fall at 149; and Matt Herrington got a major decision, 19-6.

Playing With the Big Boys
Penn’s match-up with Missouri will mean it has faced or will face the top three teams in this week’s InterMat/NWCA/USAToday poll - No. 1 Missouri, No. 2 Minnesota, and No. 3 Hofstra. In addition, notwithstanding its other matches at National Duals, Penn has four other top-25 schools on its slate — No. 9 Central Michigan, No. 13 Cornell, No. 20 Nebraska and No. 23 Lehigh.

Let’s Play Two?
There are five teams in the National Duals that Penn has either already faced or will face this season, and could potentially meet in the tournament: Minnesota (L, 28-12) and Central Michigan (L, 30-12) were at the Northeast Duals, while Hofstra (1/26), Cornell (2/9) and Nebraska (2/17) are on the slate for later in the season. Penn and Cornell are the only EIWA schools competing this weekend.

In The Rankings
The Quakers, ranked 14th in the nation as a team in all four national polls, also have individuals ranked in six of the 10 weight classes. Three grapplers — Matt Eveleth (14th at 125), Zack Shanaman (16th at 165) and Lior Zamir (13th at 184) broke into the rankings after outstanding performances in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Matt Valenti (2nd at 133), Matt Dragon (14th at 157) and Matt Herrington (7th at 174) have been familiar faces in the rankings throughout the season.

Scouting Mizzou
The Tigers are ranked first in the nation for the fourth week in a row for good reason - nine of the 10 starters are ranked in their respective top 20s. Undefeated Ben Askren (174) and his brother Max Askren (197) both hold their top spots. John Olanowski (18th, 125), Tyler McCormick (15th, 133), Ashtin Primus (15th, 141), Josh Wagner (15th, 149), Michael Chandler (12th, 157), Matt Pell (7th, 165), and Raymond Jordan (5th, 184) will all add up to a formidable challenge for the Quakers.

Nice To See You Again
Penn’s coaching staff has ties to both of Penn’s potential second-round match-ups. The Quakers will take on either West Virginia or No. 8 Northwestern in either the second round or the consolation first round; Head Coach Zeke Jones was an assistant at West Virginia from 1998-2005, while his current assistant, Rob Eiter, recently came to Philadelphia after four seasons at Northwestern.

Valenti Nears the Wins Record
Senior Matt Valenti is closing in on Penn’s all-time wins record. His five wins at the Las Vegas Invitational give him 117 for his career, one shy of Matt Feast’s total and 11 short of the all-time program record of 128 held by Brett Matter.

It’s Been Awhile
Penn hasn’t wrestled a dual meet since Nov. 25 — it will have been 49 days since the Quakers last wrestled as a team when they step onto the mat against Missouri. Penn was scheduled to wrestle York College Jan. 6, but the meet was cancelled.

Eveleth Breaks Onto the National Scene
Senior 125-pounder Matt Eveleth took full advantage of the national spotlight of the Las Vegas Invitational, turning in a breakout performance and a third-place finish. Eveleth defeated several ranked opponents, including a pin of No. 4 Tanner Gardner in the third-place match, as well as a 4-1 decision over No. 13 Javier Maldonado and a 13-1 major decision over No. 15 Chad Sportelli. As a result of his performance, Eveleth is ranked 14th in the most recent InterMat poll, and at 10-3, he has already tied his win total from a year ago.

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.

Next Time Out
Penn takes nearly two weeks off and returns home to The Palestra Jan. 26 to face No. 3 Hofstra at 7 p.m.

Download: national duals notes.pdf