PHILADELPHIA – A new year presents new opportunities for the Penn Wrestling program to pick up big wins as the Quakers compete in the 2016 Defense Soap and Flips Wrestling Southern Scuffle hosted by UT-Chattanooga January 1-2.
The Quakers are returning to the Southern Scuffle after a one-year absence. The last time Penn competed at the Scuffle was in 2014, where Penn placed two grapplers and finished 19th overall out of 24 teams. Both of those placewinners – sixth place finisher Lorenzo Thomas and eighth place finisher Caleb Richardson – return to compete this go-round for the Quakers.
While Penn has not competed in a dual meet this year, the Quakers have started to gain some attention as a tournament team. In the latest team rankings, Penn is ranked No. 23 in InterMat’s Tournament Power Index, No. 20 in Flowrestling’s Tournament Rankings, and No. 23 in Tournament Strength by WrestlingReport.com.
The overall tournament field is extremely strong, with 10 of the InterMat Top-25 in TPI entered. In addition, seven of the individual No. 1 ranked wrestlers in the nation will be entered at their weight class.
Lorenzo Thomas – ranked No. 6 in the country – reached the semifinals in 2014 at 184 pounds, finishing with a 3-3 record. He used his Scuffle run to jump start an All-American run at NCAAs that March, and is looking to do so again in his senior season. Thomas is 12-1 this season, with nine wins via bonus points. He is also closing in on 100 career wins, entering the tournament with a 93-28 overall record. In his three tournament entries this season, he has finishes of second (Binghamton Open), first (Keystone Classic), and second (Nittany Lion Open).
National No. 6 C.J. Cobb is 11-0 this season at 149 pounds, and is 28-4 in his last 32 matches dating back to last January 17. Cobb is likely to be the No. 2 seed, with national No. 1 Zain Retherford of Penn State atop the group. Cobb has never competed at the Southern Scuffle.
Caleb Richardson is unranked by InterMat this week, but is as high as No. 16 (Flowrestling) in other national polls. He is 8-5 this season, and went 26-11 last year in his first season at 133 pounds. A two-time NCAA qualifier, Richardson has had success at major mid-season tournaments, with eighth place finishes at the Scuffle in 2013-14 and at Midlands last season. Of his five losses this season, two have come to Top-10 opponents in Cornell’s No. 1 Nahshon Garrett and Penn State’s No. 6 Jordan Conaway – two potential opponents at the Scuffle.
Also unranked by Intermat is Casey Kent. The 174-pounder is No. 16 this week according to Flowrestling, though, and set to make some noise after missing all of 2014-15 with injury. Kent is 7-2 this season, with his only losses coming to Princeton’s Jonathan Schleifer and Ohio State’s Myles Martin. A NCAA qualifier at 165 pounds in 2014, Kent went 2-2 at the 2014 Southern Scuffle.
Another Penn wrestler looking to regain the attention of the national scene is Frank Mattiace. The 197-pounder did not compete for Penn in 2014-15, training with the Regional Training Center instead. He won two tournaments last year competing unattached, and is 11-4 this year with five falls.
An interesting weight to keep an eye on is 157 pounds. Penn will enter both May Bethea and Brooks Martino, with an eye towards deciding who will take control of the starting spot. Martino is a returning NCAA qualifier who was sixth at EIWAs last year. He is 8-5 this season. May Bethea is 11-4 this season and ranked No. 33 by WrestlingReport.com, and won the Keystone Classic where he defeated Martino in the semifinals and Rider’s No. 20 Chad Walsh in the final. Neither has competed at the Southern Scuffle previously. Joe Oliva will also be entered at 157 for the Quaker.
At 165, Ray Bethea is ranked No, 27 by WrestlingReport.com despite just a 4-2 record this season due to injury. Bethea was 13-7 last season at 165, just missing out on a NCAA bid. In 2013-14, he was 19-9 at 157, including a 1-2 outing at the Southern Scuffle. Sophomore Joe Velliquette will also enter the tournament.
At 141 pounds, Penn will enter both Marc Mastropietro and A.J. Vindici. Mastropietro, a sophomore, is 4-6 this season with three losses to Top-20 opponents – including on-point losses to Harvard’s Todd Preston and F&M’s Richard Durso. Vindici, a freshman, is 4-7 in his rookie season.
In addition to Thomas at 184, Penn has a second viable candidate to make some noise in sophomore Joe Heyob. He is 8-3 this season, with losses to Thomas and Cornell’s Gabe Dean. He was runner-up at the Keystone Classic and third at the Nittany Lion Open.
At heavyweight, Patrik Garren returns to the lineup after missing the Nittany Lion Open. He is 7-3 this season.
Download: 2015-16 Media Notes.pdf