For the second consecutive weekend, Coach Chris Ayres’ grapplers continued to streak in regular season competition, as they once again went three for three in dual matches. This week’s victims included Columbia, American International University and Sacred Heart.
The biggest challenge and most exhilarating outcome of the weekend came on Friday night in Dillon Gymnasium, when the Tigers (11-2 overall, 3-1 Ivy League) found themselves in a similar situation to last weekend against Boston University: behind by a significant margin late in the match. But three consecutive wins to close the match gave the Tigers enough points to complete a crucial comeback for the second straight weekend in EIWA competition.
Columbia (6-5, 0-2) took the momentum early in the match, as the Lions’ Penn Gottfried beat junior Ryan Cash 9-5 to put Columbia on the board 3-0. The return of senior 133-pounder Garrett Frey added further frustration for the Lions, as the three-time NCAA qualifier dominated throughout, but Angelo Amenta squeezed out another close victory for Columbia by a score of 5-4. Freshman Jordan Laster fought hard against the Lions’ Matt Bystol, but ultimately could not convert in a 2-0 defeat.
Down by a team score of 9-0 after the first three bouts, junior Adam Krop put Princeton on the board with a convincing 13-4 major decision over Ryan Ponte. At 157 pounds, sophomore Kevin Moylan had what Chris Ayres considered the match-altering bout, as he broke a 3-3 deadlock in the third period with a late takedown to secure the 5-3 victory. Sophomore Judd Ziegler fell to returning EIWA Championship finalist Josh Houldsworth 8-5, and senior Ryan Callahan’s 10-1 loss to Shane Hughes had the Lions just one bout away from clinching the match.
Down 16-7 with three bouts remaining, the upper weights once again pulled through for the Tigers in executing a huge comeback in front of the home crowd. Brett Harner continued to impress in his freshman campaign, nearly sticking Zack Hernandez en route to a dominant 11-2 win to cut the Tigers’ deficit to 16-11. Sophomore Abram Ayala then picked apart Troy Hembury from the neutral position, recording a 14-5 decision that put the Tigers down by a point going into the final match.
By the time freshman Ray O’Donnell stepped onto the mat, both sides knew that the match was over. The entire Tigers’ bench stood on its feet, while Columbia’s side slumped over in disappointment, as freshman Ray O’Donnell took the mat to seal the win against Columbia’s Matt Idelson. O’Donnell used his height and strength to his advantage, taking care of Idelson handily on his way to a match-clinching 8-2 decision. Princeton’s 18-16 victory, like many of its wins this season, tells a far different story from last season’s encounter with Columbia, when the Lions crushed the Tigers 30-7 in New York City.
Sunday afternoon saw the Tigers handily brush past two of their weaker opponents this season, as the team blew past American International College and Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn. Other wrestlers worked into the lineup during the afternoon to improve the Tigers’ record. Sophomore Nick Masselli filled in at 149 pounds with a 13-3 decision against AIC. Freshman Matt Gancayco recorded an exciting sudden death victory against Sacred Heart after ending the third period tied at four, and freshman Troy Murtha continued to streak for the second straight weekend, locking up a cradle and pinning his AIC opponent in the third period of their match.
With the weekend over, the Tigers end their regular season with a perfect road record of 9-0. Princeton will conclude its regular season with a pair of home matches this weekend against Rider and Penn. The Tigers will take on Rider Friday night at 7 p.m., and will try to clinch second place in the Ivy League with a win against Penn on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.