Crew | Men’s crew won two awards from the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges this fall—one for the team (Lightweight Crew of the Year), and one for head coach Mike Irwin (Lightweight Coach of the Year). Other successes for the lightweight team include winning Head of the Schuylkill and the Princeton Chase, and placing third at this year’s IRA Regatta—their best finish since the same result in 1993.

Irwin and his team were chosen for these awards based on a vote by other rowing coaches. “It’s an award selected by the fraternity to which Mike belongs,” says Gary Caldwell, director of rowing for the Eastern Colleges Athletic Conference. “In my personal view, this award has more credence and more importance than other awards.”

“Really, it’s a recognition of where the program has come from, the last three or four years, and the hard work that the athletes have put into getting back to the medals platform,” says Irwin. “It’s been a long time since Penn has been in the finals, let alone on the medals stand, and it was a very nice way to welcome us back.”

The women’s crew also did well at the Head of the Schuylkill, placing first in the Club Eight race and fourth in the Women’s Heavy Championship Open Eights.

Wrestling | Larry “Zeke” Jones was closing up his first year as head coach of the Penn wrestling team—his first year as head coach of any college team, in fact—and by the numbers, he did quite well.

He led the team to a 7-3 season by presstime, compared with a roundup of 9-4 last year. The team also took the championship at the Keystone Classic on November 20, and placed 10th in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on December 2 and 3. Last year, the team placed second at Keystone and 13th in Las Vegas. The team also moved up in the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll: nationally, they were ranked 24 last year, and 22 this year.

It might be their new attitude that’s proven to be successful on the wrestling mat. “In the beginning of the season we were more defensive, more methodical,” said Jones. “We’ve created a more offensive, aggressive, attacking style of wrestling.”

Before Jones, Roger Reina coached the wrestling team for 19 years, and had a career record (205-106-6) with more than twice the wins of any previous coach. Reina also led the team to an unprecedented eight Ivy League crowns, leaving hefty shoes for Jones to fill.

“The history of the program has been tremendous here,” said Jones. “Penn wrestling and the University of Pennsylvania have, without question, the very best combination of athletics and academics in the United States.”

But that winning combination of athletics and academics could also prove a challenge to recruiting, Jones added. “Because we have the best blend of academics and athletics, the bar is high. With that bar being what it is, it makes our pool of candidates small.” But for those who do make it here, Jones offers an ambitious program. “The goals for the program are simple. We want to graduate 100 percent of our kids into national championships.”

With six more meets and the NCAA Championships still to go before the season ended, Jones was far from finished with his first year, but the going seemed good: “We’re grooving and the team’s working hard.”

—Julia Yue Zhou C’06

©2006 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 03/03/06

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