After a three-week hiatus from competition, the wrestling team returned tocompetition Saturday afternoon with a double-header at home. The Tigers (5-2) took down Franklin & Marshall by a convincing score of 34-10, but later fellto nationally-ranked Cornell 36-7. Saturday marked the beginning of the team’s descent into the heart of its conference schedule, as February will witness the Tigers face off against nine EIWA opponents.
The first match of Saturday afternoon began as a back and forth battle between Princeton and F&M (5-5), as the sides exchanged victories through the first five of 10 individual matches. After junior Jake Intrator dropped a 12-1 major decision at 125 pounds, junior Ryan Cash responded for the Tigers by gritting out a 3-2 win over F&M sophomore Scott Stevens. Facing F&M’s nationally-ranked junior Richard Durso, freshman Jordan Laster kept the match close at 141 pounds, but eventually fell 7-2.
Down by a team score of 7-3 going into the 149-pound matchup, junior Adam Krop made quick work of the Diplomats’ sophomore Sharron Townsend, winning by technical fall 15-0 early in the second period. F&M enjoyed its final victory at 157 pounds, as F&M senior Andrew Murano edged out the Tigers’ senior Seth Hazelton 3-2.
Down 10-8 at the halfway point of the match, the Tigers took control for good, gaining extra-point victories in all five remaining matchups. Sophomore Judd Ziegler and senior Ryan Callahan added 12 points to the Tigers’ total with back-to-back pins. Freshman Brett Harner and sophomore Abe Ayala then added consecutive major decisions to put the Tigers up 28-10 going into the final contest of the match. Freshman Ray O’Donnell flattened junior Alexander Henry in the first period to round off the Tigers’ rout to give Princeton its first home victory of the season.
The Tigers had a harder time in their evening match against the EIWA’s top team. Cornell, currently ranked fourth in the nation by the NCAA, went six-for-six to start the match against the Tigers. After Princeton surrendered two quick pins, Laster fought another nationally-ranked opponent in Cornell’s senior Mike Nevinger. Laster got in on the legs of the two-time All-American a couple of times, but struggled to finish and ultimately dropped a 5-0 decision. Krop experienced a similar battle against the nation’s sixth-ranked 149-pounder in Cornell senior Chris Villalonga. Krop scored the first takedown of the bout, but a reversal tied the match at two at the end of the first period. Riding time and a late escape ultimately gave Villalonga a 4-2 victory.
Unlike last year, though, the Tigers did not suffer a shutout to the Big Red. Callahan put the Tigers on the board at 174 pounds, as he gutted out a 7-4 decision over sophomore Duke Pickett. O’Donnell added four points for the Tigers’ total in the final bout of the match, as he recorded a 7-4 decision over junior Jacob Aiken-Phillips. Given the circumstances, the Tigers found encouragement in their weekend result.
“I think we wrestled well as a team against Franklin & Marshall,” Krop said. “We executed where we needed to and guys went out and wrestled tough for all seven minutes. Against Cornell, a top-notch team ranked top-10 in the country, we had a lot of great opportunities to come up with big wins,” Krop said. “Although we only came out with two, we were in at least five of the matches and put ourselves in positions to win. I think Cornell was a good test, a test to see how we stack up against elite competition and to see where we are in our training.”
Krop also believes that Saturday’s experience will be helpful for the Tigers in their remaining matches.
“Moving forward, we need to continue to get tougher and score points late in the match. Over this next month, we have the opportunity to take a huge step for Princeton wrestling: a 13-2 record. And bonus points will definitely be a critical factor for our success.”
The Tigers will return to the mat this weekend on a road trip to New England. Princeton faces off against Harvard and Boston University on Saturday, and stops in Providence on Sunday to take on Brown.