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PHILADELPHIA - The field is set for the 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa and Penn will send six wrestlers to compete for a national championship.
Five wrestlers -- Canaan Bethea, Micah Burak, C.J. Cobb, Ian Korb and Mark Rappo -- knew they were in via automatic qualifying spots earned at the EIWA Championships last weekend. That group was joined by Steven Graziano who was awarded an at-large bid at heavyweight after finishing fifth at the conference tournament.
Returning All-America Micah Burak earned the highest seed of any Penn wrestler, picking up the No. 8 seed at 197 pounds. Burak finished seventh at the NCAA Championships last year -- a run which began with a win over the wrestler who will be his first-round opponent for the second year in a row, Andrew Campolattano of Ohio State. Last year, Burak secured a 5-3 win over Campolattano in sudden victory to start his tournament. This year, Burak is 16-2 and fresh off an EIWA title. Campolattano is 17-11 overall and finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships last weekend.
Penn's other seeded wrestler is C.J. Cobb who will be seeded No. 10 heading into his first NCAA Championships. Cobb was recently runner-up at the EIWA Championships at 141 pounds and is one of three seeded EIWA wrestlers at the weight. Cobb has wrestled to a record of 23-7 this season and is 9-7 against wrestlers selected to NCAAs. He will have a first-time opponent on Thursday morning, though, in Nebraska's Ridge Kiley. An at-large selection, Kiley is 14-11 this season and did not place at the recent Big Ten Championships. Kiley is a three-time NCAA qualifier and is 1-4 all-time at NCAAs.
Senior Mark Rappo will wrestle the first match of the 2013 NCAA Championships, competing in a pigtail match against Max Soria from Buffalo. Rappo enters his second NCAA Championships with a 22-5 record and off a runner-up finish at EIWAs. In his first trip to NCAAs in 2011, Rappo was 1-2, defeating the No. 9 seed in the first round. Soria is an automatic qualifier from the MAC, earning his trip with a fourth-place finish at the conference tournament. Soria is 26-13 this season, and will be making his second trip to the NCAA Championships - he was 0-2 last season.
Canaan Bethea is one of four first-time NCAA qualifiers for the Quakers, and he will line up against a familiar foe in the first round on Thursday. Unseeded at 184 pounds, Bethea will wrestle unseeded Kevin Radford from Arizona State. The two met in January in a dual, a 5-4 win for Bethea over then-No. 15 Radford. That was one of a team-high 24 wins for Bethea this season. Radford is making his second trip to the NCAA Championships. Last year he was 0-2 with a first-round loss to Penn's Erich Smith. This season, Radford is 21-13 and recently was runner-up at the PAC 12 Championships.
Another first-timer to NCAAs is Ian Korb at 174 pounds. An automatic qualifier off his third place finish at EIWAs, Korb is 21-13 this season. He will wrestle the No. 4 seed, Robert Kokesh of Nebraska. A NCAA qualifier last year at 165 (2-2 at the meet), Kokesh is 33-3 this season and was recently third at the Big Ten Championships.
Rounding out the contingent for Penn is heavyweight Steven Graziano. The only at-large selection for the Quakers, Graziano earned the selection via his 2012-13 regular season. Graziano has won seven of his last nine matches, including a fifth place finish at EIWAs. He will wrestle defending NCAA champion and No. 2 seed Tony Nelson of Minnesota in the first round on Thursday. Nelson is a two-time All-American, adding a seventh in 2011 to his title run last year. This season, Nelson is 28-1 overall with a Big Ten title to his credit - his second in a row.
The 2013 NCAA Championships begin Thursday, March 21 with first round action starting at 12 p.m. EST. All session of the NCAA Championships will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks.