Penn wrestling at Columbia: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly


Good Bad & Ugly






We break down what was good and what was not for Penn wrestling in its 23-9 win at Columbia on Saturday:

THE GOOD: Early domination

With uncertainties in the middle of the lineup and Micah Burak not at one-hundred percent, it was pivotal for the first three Quakers to get big wins, and that they did. Mark Rappo earned a bonus point in the first bout, Jeff Canfora dominated his bout, and C.J. Cobb earned Penn an additional bonus point in the third bout. Their efforts in getting the Red and Blue off to an 11-0 start proved to be the difference maker.

THE BAD: Struggles in the middle

The Quakers won the first three bouts and last three bouts, but in the middle, Penn was outwrestled and lost 3 of 4. In fairness to the Quakers though, Columbia's Steve Santos is ranked sixth in the country in the 149 pound class, and Jake O'Hara also boasts a national ranking at the 157 class. 5 wrestlers in all were ranked (3 for Penn), and all came out victorious.

THE UGLY: Micah Burak’s flu

We don’t know for sure what it looked like, but there’s no way Burak’s flu could have been pretty. The senior and contender for a national championship struggled all week with the illness and was a game time decision for Penn. Though he was able to win, Burak certainly was not himself. With the postseason looming, Burak’s health will definitely be something to watch for.

Weekend Wrap

With several teams out on the road this weekend, the Quakers were fortunate to make it through the blizzard up in the Northeast and return safely to campus. Three Penn teams scored significant victories this weekend, with the women's squash, gymnastics and wrestling teams dominating their opponents. Here now is this week's edition of Weekend Wrap.


The Penn wrestling team picked up its first two Ivy League victories of this season by winning 17 of 20 total matches against Harvard and Brown. The Quakers were able to avenge last year's loss to Harvard due in large part to strong performances from  junior Canaan Bethea, sophomore Ian Korb and No. 20 Mark Rappo. After dropping two matches to the Crimson in the victory, Penn fell one victory shy of a clean sweep of Brown later in the afternoon. The Quakers controled the matchup from start to finish, and won, 35-4.

Penn wrestling puts Harvard back in its place

Men's Squash:

The season ended on a sour note for the Penn men's squash team. The squad dropped both of its matches this weekend, first to No. 11 Columbia on Friday, 5-4, and then on Sunday to No. 5 Cornell, 7-2. The Quakers completed the regular season having lost eight of their final nine games. While the matchup against Columbia was tied at 4 wins a piece,  Penn junior John Dudzik dropped his match against Columbia’s Tony Zou to give the Lions the 'W'. On Sunday, the Big Red dominated the Quakers, with only junior Daniel Judd (8-5, 4-3) and sophomore Jack Maine (7-7, 3-4) scoring victories for Penn.

Men’s squash finishes Ivy League slate on a sour note

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With the return of Micah Burak, Penn wrestling keeps winning

After being absent for over a month, No. 7 Micah Burak (197 pounds) returned to action for No. 22 Penn on Sunday as the Quakers faced both Stanford and Arizona State in a doubleheader. Unsurprisingly, the returning All-American won both of his bouts in a convincing manner, proving that he is back in form and ready to take on the rest of the season.

First, Burak defeated Stanford's Michael Sojka, 6-1, to help the Quakers post a 27-6 victory over the Cardinal. Later, Burak scored two takedowns on his way to a 5-2 decision over No. 8 Jake Meredith of Arizona State — coach Rob Eiter's alma mater. Thanks in part to Burak's victorious comeback, the Quakers defeated the Sun Devils, 27-10, avenging Penn's 21-20 loss to Arizona State at last year's Northeast Duals.

Penn wrestling moves up in the rankings









Just because Penn wrestling is in the midst of a four-week break doesn't mean Penn wrestling isn't keeping busy.

After defeating Lehigh and Hofstra by the scores of 24-12 and 21-12, respectively, Penn (2-1) has entered the USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division 1 Coaches Poll for the first time this season. The Quakers' only defeat so far came at the hands of current No. 2 Oklahoma State.

The Red and Blue are currently ranked No. 22, one spot ahead of the Mountain Hawks, who were No. 21 before Saturday's bout. Penn is now second in the EIWA behind No. 8 Cornell, whom they will face on Jan., 26 in Ithaca, N.Y.

Penn's individual grapplers have been moving up in the rankings as well. After a strong start to his season, sophomore C.J. Cobb now ranks at No. 16 in the 141-pound weightclass according to the InterMat rankings. At 125 pounds, Mark Rappo moved ahead of Hofstra's Steve Bonnano, who he defeated in overtime Sunday, 9-7, and is now No. 19.

Despite a three-week absence, Micah Burak (197 pounds) is still No. 8, although he fell out of the OpenMat rankings. He should be back in time for the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill., on Dec. 29-30. Burak finished second at last year's Midlands Championships and will be looking to surpass that performance this year.

Kemmerer leads Penn grapplers into NCAA Tournament

Five Penn wrestlers can finally book their tickets to St. Louis.

Returning All-American Zack Kemmerer will be joined by junior Micah Burak, senior Bryan Ortenzio (pictured), freshman Steve Robertson and senior Erich Smith.

Kemmerer, who last year finished eighth, will be making his third appearance in the end-of-year tournament. The141-pound senior finished fifth during the weekend at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association's championships. He will face fellow unseeded Evan Henderson from North Carolina in a first-round matchup.

Penn's hottest wrestler heading into the tournament will be Bryan Ortenzio. The 133-pound senior came away from EIWAs with a win and in the process became Penn's first champion since 2008. He is seeded No. 12.

The pair will be joined by fellow three-time qualifier Micah Burak. The 197 pounder reached the finals of the EIWA to clinch his spot, but lost to long time rival Cam Simaz of Cornell, whom he has never beaten in nine tries.  Burak reached the Round of 12 in last year's championships, but fell one win short of All-American status. He is seeded No. 11 at the Championships.

Senior Erich Smith, a transfer from Michigan, and freshman Steve Robertson will both be making debut appearances at the NCAA Championships. Robertson finished the year 23-8 and came away with fifth place at the EIWAs.

Smith overcame a first round loss to No. 2 Robert Hamlin in the EIWAs to clinch a berth at the NCAA Championships by virtue of his third place finish.

The only disappointment was the exclusion of Ivy League Rookie of the Year Lorenzo Thomas. Thomas, who is 23-10, finished just in seventh and couldn't lock up one of the four at-large bids.

The wrestlers will head to Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Monday.

Steven Graziano named EIWA Wrestler of the Week

Sophomore Steven Graziano had a shaky start to the season, going 8-6 in his first 14 matches. It’s not difficult to guess why — he missed a month of mat time from November to December, a period he could have used to get in top shape for the first tournament.

But now, apparently, he’s back at full strength. The heavyweigh grappler is having one mammoth second half of a season and was awarded with a much-deserved EIWA Wrestler of the Week. He’s 11-1 in the EIWA conference and has won each of his last seven matches, including two victories over the weekend against Columbia and Bucknell.

In the Columbia match, Graziano demonstrated his increased prowess at a crucial moment. Penn was down, 18-16, and Graziano had to match up against heavily favored Kevin Lester. Throughout the first two periods, neither scored. Then, Graziano dug deep, taking down Lester with 48 seconds to go. With 5 seconds left, he clinched a 5-2 victory, securing a 19-18 win for the Quakers.

But his wins have been no fluke. Graziano has recently avenged his losses against past rivals: Harvard’s David Ng, Hofstra’s Paul Snyder and Rider’s Evan Craig.

Kemmerer selected for All-Star tourney

Fifth-year senior wrestler Zack Kemmerer was selected to compete at the NWCA All-Star Classic presented by the Marines at Arizona State University Monday.

Kemmerer is one of just 20 college wrestlers selected for the 46th installment of the Classic. The 141-pounder is seeded against Cal Poly's Boris Novachkov, the 2011 NCAA runner-up and two-time defending Pac-10 champ. Kemmerer enters the season ranked fourth in the country, while Novachkov sits at No. 2.

Of course, Kemmerer is no stranger to the big stage, as he finished eighth at NCAAs last March to earn All-America status. He also qualified for NCAAs in 2010.

The Quakers haven't had a representative at the NWCA All-Star Classic since Matt Valenti and Matt Herrington in 2006. You can catch the action on Fox College Sports beginning at 7:30 pm Monday.

Happy Halloween from Penn wrestling

The Penn wrestling team probably didn't get to enjoy as much candy as the grapplers would have liked, what with the season approaching and weightclasses to maintain. But that didn't stop them (or at least their parents) from getting into the spirit.

The team's facebook page put together an album of Halloween memories, with pictures of the Quakers when they were young.

For example, here's little Bryan Ortenzio:


Penn announces return of wrestling assistant

On Wednesday morning, Penn announced the hire of Brian Dolph to help bolster the squad as the look to improve on last year’s fifth place finish at the EIWA Championships.

Dolph had previously worked on the Penn coaching staff from 1994-2003 under the successful term of Roger Reina. In this stint he worked with 33 first-team All-Ivy wrestlers, 1 national champion in Brett Matter and 1 national runner up in Brandon Slay.

As a collegiate wrester at Indiana University from 1986-1990, Dolph notched a 127-9 record, including a program-best 46 wins during his last year.  That year he captured the 150-pound NCAA Title, which secured a third straight All-American honor.

The Canton, Ohio native continued to wrestle while coaching at Penn. He had a very successful 10-year run where he qualified every year for the World and Olympic Trials. In 2000 he finished in third at the 2000 U.S. National Wrestling Freestyle Championships at 167.5 pounds, to qualify for the Olympic Trials. There he met Quaker Alum Brandon Slay, who defeated Dolph for a spot on the national team and would go on to win a gold medal in Sydney.

After leaving Penn in 2003, Dolph worked as an assistant at Cleveland State from 2006-07 and briefly served as the head coach at Massillon Perry High School (2004-06) and North Canton Hoover High School (2007-10) in Ohio.

During his time as high school coach, he would train future NCAA champions Michigan’s Steve Luke and Minnesota’s Dustin Schlatter. Last year Dolph worked as a volunteer assistant for the University of Michigan.

Wrestler Gabe Burak headed back to Colorado


An update on wrestler Gabe Burak, who graduated last spring:

Much like basketball player Danny Monckton, Burak gained a fifth year of eligibility after sitting out a season due to injury -- he transferred to Penn from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs before the 2007-08 season, but wrestled in just 10 matches that season.  The DP has learned that Burak has moved back to his home state to wrestle for Division I Northern Colorado (the post-grad year cannot be used at an Ivy League school, according to league rules). As a high schooler, he won three Colorado state championships, compiling an incredible 125-1 record over that span.

“Gabe is great kid and will impact out team in a number of ways,” Bears coach Ben Charrington told “Not only will he make an impact on the mat and in the classroom for us, he will also bring  tremendous levels of maturity and leadership skills to this team.  We feel fortunate to have added such a quality person to the UNC Wrestling family.”

The fifth year will give him one final shot to become an All-American after he fell painfully short at the Wells Fargo Center last March. The 165-pounder earned his first NCAA tournament victory in Round 1, and rallied from a 2nd round loss to win two straight consolation matches. In the Round of 12, however, he lost to Hoftra's P.J. Gillespie. Burak finished his Penn career with an 86-36 career record, including a 23-8 mark as a senior. He was twice named an All-Ivy honorable mention and qualified for NCAAs during his final two seasons.

Gabe's brother, 197-pounder Micah Burak, is entering his junior season at Penn.