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:


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.

Wrestling assistant Cerminara hits Philly MMA scene

Since I took over from the illustrious Michael Gold as senior sports editor at the DP, I've seen a massive increase in the amount PR email I receive. At first I thought it was some bad practical joke Mr. Gold had set me up for before his departure, but he denies any wrongdoing.

Anyway, the most consistent set of press releases (PR agents, I'm not issuing a challenge) I've received have been from "Locked in the Cage," a mixed martial arts series hosted in Philadelphia. To be honest, these emails generally go straight to the delete box along with most of the other junk I get. Aside from knowing very little about MMA, my work on concussions in athletics has left me questioning sports like boxing and MMA. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I just don't see the Penn community overlapping much with the MMA world.


Kyle Cerminara

But this week the release was suddenly very relevant to Penn. As it turns out, Penn wrestling assistant coach Kyle Cerminara will be participating in the upcoming  Locked in the Cage Thursday Night Fights, a 14 fight card, in which Cerminara will face "journeyman" brawler John 'Iron Bull' Doyle.

Cerminara is a perfect 1-0 in MMA after winning an April bout against Ariel Sepulveda, getting the unanimous decision after the third round. He'll look to keep that perfect record on August 4th when he fights Doyle, who has a 9-17 record. The bout will take place at South Philly Arena at Swanson and Ritner streets.

The assistant coach joined Penn's staff last summer. He was an All-American at Buffalo and since graduating in 2006 has competed in freestyle wrestling while holding coaching gigs. He's been a runner-up at both the Pan American games and the U.S. Open. His credentials — and a bold prediction for his future in MMA — as described in the release from Locked in the Cage:

"Cerminara enters the sport with pristine wrestling credentials that include US Olympic Team Alternate and current University of Pennsylvania assistant wrestling coach.  Not to mention that in mid-July the 28 year old MMA greenhorn won Bellator's open try-outs at Daddis Fight Camps' Cherry Hill gym.  It will not be long before this world class wrestler is fighting under the big lights."

Cerminara looks like a nice guy, but personally, I would not like to be locked in anywhere with him. Also, he needs a nickname. Feel free to comment below if you've got any good ideas. Kyle "Raging Quaker" Cerminara.

Brown could lose four athletic programs

According to Bloomberg, a committee at Brown has recommended the school eliminate four of its 38 athletic programs: men's and women's fencing, wrestling and women's skiing. The money freed up from the cuts would be redistributed to the school's other programs, increasing their budget by 10 percent.

Two interesting takeaways from the report: First, Brown is the Ivy League university that brought in the least athletics revenue in 2009-10 at $15.2 million. Penn, with $30.4 million, ranked second to Yale (this information is publicly available online through the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act). More notable, however, is the appeal to the University's academic program that was used to justify the cuts.

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Zack Kemmerer, All-American

Two items to share following Penn 141-pounder Zack Kemmerer's big weekend at the Wells Fargo Center. Kemmerer became the 14th Penn wrestler to reach All-American status (the Quakers' have reached the status 25 total times), the first at 141, by beating Andrew Alton of national champion Penn State. Kemmerer lost his next match and finished eighth.

Here's a video of Kemmerer's announcement from Sushaan Modi from his balcony seat on press row:

And here, courtesy of Jennifer Scuteri, is the front door of the fraternity house in which many of the wrestlers live, Alpha Tau Omega ("Congrats Kemmerer, 2011 All-American"):


Wrestlers pick up Ivy accolades

As Penn wrestling gets its first weekend off in over a month in preparation for the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships, eight of the Quakers' grapplers received all-Ivy honors.

Chief among them was freshman Kyle Cowan, who picked up the Rookie of the Year award, just the fifth Penn wrestler to do so in program history. Cowan finished the regular season ranked No. 33 in the heavyweight division. He went 2-1 in Ivy duals with a win against No. 1 ranked Cornell's Stryker Lane. Overall he finished 16-13 and was named second-team all-Ivy in addition to ROTY

Senior Zach Kemmerer was Penn's only first-team all-Ivy selection, but he earned it unanimously. The award improves on his second-team distinction last season. Kemmerer led the Quakers with a 31-6 overall record in the regular season, and finished No. 12 in the 141-pound weightclass. He kept a clean 11-0 record against Ivy League wrestlers.

Joining Cowan on the second team were Mark Rappo, Rollie Peterkin, Andrew Lenzi, Scott Giffin and Micah Burak. Micah's brother Gabe was named an honorable mention. Of the 11 second-teamers, six were Quakers. Penn's eight all-Ivy nods was second to the Big Red, which had nine.

The Quakers will pick up next weekend when they head to the EIWA championships before returning to Philly for NCAAs after spring break.