No. 21 Wrestling Takes Aim at EIWA Championship
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109th EIWA Championships Schedule
Friday, March 8
Session I: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. (Championship 1st Round and Quarterfinals, Wrestleback 1st and 2nd Rounds
Session II: 5:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. (Championship Semifinals, Wrestleback 3rd and 4th Rounds)
Saturday, March 9
Session III: 10 a.m. - Noon (Wrestleback semifinals and Seventh Place matches)
Session IV: 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. (Championship Finals, Third and Fifth Place matches)
PHILADELPHIA - Penn enters the 109th EIWA Championships with the fourth-most EIWA titles out of the active programs with four team crowns, but has not ascended to the top spot since the 1999 tournament at West Point. The Quakers have finished second six times since the 1999 title, and have not finished lower than fifth place at EIWA since 1994 - one of just three EIWA programs to have that distinction. Under head coach Rob Eiter, the Quakers have finished third, second, fifth and fourth - leaving just one of the top-five spots left to be claimed. Could this be the year Penn returns to the top of the EIWA mountain?
Two of Penn's senior captains hope to have a big say in proceedings this weekend. Micah Burak and Mark Rappo have each wrestled in the EIWA finals over their careers, but have yet to see their hand raised in a title bout.
For Burak, he is looking to avoid the history books this weekend. Over his first three EIWA Championships, Burak has thrice reached the championship match - but each time he ran into the buzzsaw known as Cam Simaz and was denied the win. Burak is the third three-time runner-up for the Quakers, joining Joey Allen (1994-96) and James Laggan (1940-42) and according to the EIWA, there has never been a four-time runner-up from any EIWA program. Burak is the top seed for the first time at 197 pounds, and enters the tournament with a 12-2 record and a No. 8 national ranking.
Rappo was edged in the 2011 EIWA final, 6-4, by Cornell's Frank Perrelli and has twice placed at the EIWA Championships. He enters the tournament with a 20-4 record and wins in 12 of his last 13 matches. His only loss of 2013 came to the likely top seed, Cornell's Nahshon Garrett, in a tiebreaker.
Joining the two seniors as favorites at their weight is sophomore C.J. Cobb at 141. In his first true season of competition, Cobb has amassed a 20-6 record and a national ranking of No. 9. Cobb is 9-2 against EIWA opponents this season, his only two losses coming to Harvard's Steven Keith. Cobb does have one win over Keith, and defeated Cornell's Mike Nevinger. All three are ranked inside the top-11 nationally, making this weight a tough one to predict and one which could help decide the team race.
For the Quakers to have a shot at the team title, they will need big points from the rest of their lineup, starting with 184-pounder Canaan Bethea. He will make his first EIWA Championships start, and enters ranked No. 24 in the country with a 21-7 record. He is 11-2 since the calendar flipped to 2013 and is 10-2 overall against the EIWA.
No. 28 Casey Kent is another Penn wrestler who will be looked upon for points. 22-10 at 165, Kent is 10-3 against EIWA opponents and has won 12 matches with bonus points this season. Right behind him, Ian Korb is 20-11 this year and has a 13-3 record against EIWA opponents - the most EIWA wins by any Penn wrestler.
Andrew Lenzi may be the wild card for the Quakers. He is 21-11 overall, but likely will be seeded low at 149 after three late-season losses in the last seconds. If Lenzi can reverse a few of those decisions in his favor, the point swing could be the difference.
At heavyweight. Steven Graziano is looking to improve upon a sixth-place finish at the 2012 EWIAs. Graziano was on a 10-match winning streak before a loss to Zack Rey at last year's tournament led to an injury and derailed his season. This year, Graziano has won 17 matches while fighting for the starting spot and has earned the victory in his last four.
Troy Hernandez was eighth last year at the conference tournament, winning two matches. He enters his final EIWA Championships with wins in three of his last four matches and looking to put together a run similar to Erich Smith's from last season when the under-the-radar senior wrestled all the way back to third place to wrestle at the NCAA Championships.
Making his first EIWA Championships appearance will be Jeff Canfora at 133 pounds. One of three New Jersey natives in the Quakers' lineup, Canfora has won five matches in a row and is 10-6 this season. He only entered the starting lineup in late January, and is in contention to surprise at the weight with the biggest stakes - just two automatic bids are on the line at 133.
EIWA Automatic Qualifier Allocations
125 pounds: 4
133 pounds: 2
141 pounds: 7
149 Pounds: 4
157 pounds: 5
165 pounds: 5
174 pounds: 4
184 pounds: 5
197 pounds: 5
285 pounds: 4