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PHILADELPHIA - When the Penn wrestling team convened to start the 2011-12 season in the fall, goals were laid out. One of those goals included winning an Ivy League championship. The five-match sprint to an Ivy title starts on Saturday when the Quakers host No. 5 Cornell in The Palestra (1 p.m.)
It has been nine full seasons since the Quakers have finished a season atop the Ivy standings and a win over the Big Red will go a long way to ending that drought. Coinciding with Penn's nine-match winless streak against the Big Red is a nine-year run of Ivy titles for Cornell. Penn has won 11 (seven outright) Ivy League titles to 32 (28 outirght) for Cornell, with the two sides combining for 35 of the 47 outright Ivy titles won in the history of the League.
Penn will be taking on a Cornell team which boats two No. 1-ranked wrestlers in the country in Kyle Dake (157) and Cam Simaz (197).
While Dake, a two-time NCAA champion who is undefeated at 20-0 this season, has been the class of the field at 157 all year, it is the other top-ranked wrestler who will be featured in the highlight match on Saturday.
Penn has a chance to counter Cornell's top-ranked Simaz with No. 9 Micah Burak as the two meet for the eighth time in their careers. Burak has yet to gain the hand-raising at the end of a match with Simaz, taking Simaz to the brink in five of those matches before suffering a loss of two-points or less. Twice, the two wrestlers have met in the finals of the EIWA Championships, a 1-0 loss in 2011 and a 3-1 loss in 2010. Simaz is 12-1 this season, with his only loss coming via injury default in November. After missing a month with injury, Simaz returned two win four matches at the Southern Scuffle and score a win in Cornell's dual with Lehigh last weekend.
Burak is wrestling at a different level for Penn this season, with a 10-2 record and both losses inside the top-ten. He also avenged one of those losses with a 4-3 decision over No. 8 Joe Kennedy of Lehigh at Midlands and added a 12-4 major decision over No. 12 Daniel Mitchell of American.
Two other veterans of Penn-Cornell duals who will compete for Penn on Saturday are No. 15 Bryan Ortenzio (133) and No. 12 Zack Kemmerer (141).
Kemmerer is likely to compete in a bout with No. 15 Mike Nevinger on Saturday, a rematch from the final of the Binghamton Open which Kemmerer won, 4-2, in sudden victory. All-time against Cornell, Kemmerer is 7-2, with both losses coming in 2010 to Dake. A win on Saturday will be the 109th of Kemmerer's career, tying him for sixth all-time by a Quaker.
While Kemmerer has had mostly success against Cornell, his classmate Ortenzio has struggled. In three dual matches against Cornell, Ortenzio has lined up against graduated standout Mike Grey. All three matches were losses for Ortenzio (0-5 overall). Ortenzio is likely to wrestle Nick Pena, a freshman who is 9-7 this season. Last week, Cornell bumped up No. 6-ranked 125-pounder Frank Perrelli to wrestle at 133 against Lehigh, so that is a possibility this weekend.
The big difference between the past few duals with Cornell and the one about to unfold on Saturday is that the two sides will line up true freshmen or first-year starters against each other in multiple weights. Adding to the drama is that in all three instances, the two wrestlers have met already this season.
At 149, Steve Robertson will wrestle sophomore Craig Eifert in a rematch from the Binghamton Open. Eifert, ranked No. 20 at the time but unranked currently, won that match, 5-3. Eifert has wrestled as high as 165 in his college career (losing, 3-0, to Gabriel Burak last season) and is 14-6 this season.
At 165, Lorenzo Thomas has gotten off to a 15-7 start to his Penn career, with six of his seven losses inside the Top-20. One of those came at the Binghamton Open to then-No. 8 Marshall Peppelman, where Peppelman caught Thomas in the first period for a fall at 2:12. Peppelman is 18-7 this season and has slipped out of the national rankings.
Ian Korb has battled during his freshman season to a 12-11 record, and will have a chance to get a win back on another true freshman in Cornell's Billy George who scored as 3-2 win in their meeting at the Binghamton Open in November. George is 12-6 this season, with nine matches decided by one point.
The Quakers are 4-3 overall in duals this season, with a 1-2 record at home in The Palestra. Cornell is 2-0 in duals, with wins over Lehigh and Minnesota.
Probables for Penn vs. No. 5 Cornell
125 Geoffrey Bostany,So. (4-9) or Karim Shafi,Jr. (2-3)
133 #15 Bryan Ortenzio, Sr. (19-2)
141 #12 Zack Kemmerer, Sr. (16-2)
149 Steve Robertson, Fr. (19-4)
157 Troy Hernandez, Jr. (4-12)
165 Lorenzo Thomas, So. (15-7)
174 Ian Korb, Fr. (12-11) or Canaan Bethea, So. (5-0)
184 Erich Smith, Sr. (13-10)
197 #9 Micah Burak, Jr. (10-2)
285 Anthony DiLonardo, Fr. (3-10)
285 Steven Graziano, So. (6-4)
125 #6 Frank Perrelli, Sr. (15-4)
133 Nick Pena, Fr. (9-7)
141 #15 Mike Nevinger, So. (17-7)
149 Craig Eifert, So. (14-6) or Chris Villalonga, So. (13-4)
157 #1 Kyle Dake, Jr. (20-0)
165 Marshall Peppelman, So. (18-7)
174 Billy George, Fr. (12-6)
184 #3 Steve Bosak, Sr. (17-2)
197 #1 Cam Simaz, Sr. (11-1)
285 Maciej Jochym, Sr. (10-8)