PHILADELPHIA – After missing over a month of mat time from November to December, Steven Graziano has returned to the starting lineup for Penn with a vengeance and been a key cog for the Quakers ever since.
This past weekend, he went 2-0, and clinched a pair of duals for the Quakers inside the EIWA. The big win was on Saturday, erasing a Penn deficit heading into the last match in grand style to earn Graziano EIWA Wrestler of the Week honors.
Penn trailed Columbia, 18-16, entering the heavyweight bout, a match in which Graziano was tabbed as the underdog on paper by many. Facing returning NCAA qualifier Kevin Lester, who entered the bout with a 24-8 record, Graziano pushed the action throughout the bout against Lester – a heavyweight with both a height and weight advantage.
The action resulted in no offensive points for either side, as each mustered only an escape at the start of the second and third periods. Graziano had come closest to scoring a takedown in
the second period, with Lester saved only by falling to The Palestra’s basketball court off the mat.
Graziano finally connected in the third period as he took Lester down with 48 seconds remaining in the bout and added a second takedown with five seconds to go to clinch a 5-2 decision for himself and a 19-18 win for his team.
After a win by forfeit on Sunday at Bucknell – six points which widened a 17-13 lead for the Quakers into a 23-13 win – Graziano is now 15-6 overall this season and is 4-0 in Ivy League duals. He has now won seven straight dual matches since he returned to the starting lineup and has won 10 of 11 overall. Inside the EIWA this season, Graziano is 11-1 and has won 11 matches in a row against EIWA wrestlers.
Just as impressive is the bit of a “revenge tour” Graziano has been on since his return. Of his six losses this season, three have been avenged during this seven-match win streak as he has returned victories on Harvard’s David Ng, Hofstra’s Paul Snyder and Rider’s Evan Craig.
Graziano is Penn’s first EIWA Wrestler of the Week since Mark Rappo earned the honor on Feb. 7, 2011.
The Quakers finish the regular season on Feb. 18 at Princeton with a 1 p.m. start.