With the chance to cap off a complete turnaround from last season’s two-win performance to a two-loss season this year, the wrestling team came up short by falling in its final two matches of the regular season. The Tigers (11-4 overall, 3-2 Ivy League) fell to Rider (14-8) 21-15 on Friday night in Dillon Gymnasium. Princeton then fell to Ivy rival Penn (8-6, 3-2 Ivy) 22-9 on Saturday afternoon at home.
The Tigers’ six-match win streak came to an end on Friday night, as Rider took down Princeton in a far more hotly-contested dual than the Broncs’ 32-11 victory last season. Three consecutive wins in the match’s opening bouts gave Rider a 12-0 lead to start. Nationally-ranked Robert Deutsch picked up a fall for the Broncs, but the next two matches were both incredibly close. Senior Garrett Frey fell 3-2 to Chuck Zeisloft at 133 pounds, and freshman Jordan Laster fell to Rider’s Paul Kirchner in a wild overtime match at 141 pounds.
Princeton cut the lead in half with wins from senior Adam Krop and sophomore Kevin Moylan, as both won by decision at 149 and 157 pounds, respectively. But the Broncs, ranked inside the nation’s top-25 teams for most of the regular season, responded in kind with three consecutive victories to go up 21-6 and clinch the match. Sophomore Judd Ziegler and freshman Brett Harner both fell in close two-point losses, as Harner went to sudden victory but fell to Rider’s Clint Morrison. Wins by sophomore Abram Ayala and freshman Ray O’Donnell pulled the deficit to six points to end the match.
The Tigers’ season of living and dying by close bouts continued to plague them against Penn, as Princeton fell to Penn on Saturday afternoon in front of a packed Dillon Gym. The first four bouts saw the two sides trade pairs of wins, as Frey and Krop picked up close decisions to pull the Tigers within a point of Penn’s lead after the opening four bouts. But the Quakers took over from there, winning four consecutive decisions to pull far out of Princeton’s reach. Moylan, Harner and senior Ryan Callahan all fell by three or fewer points in their individual bouts, and O’Donnell suffered a late takedown to lose 3-2 at heavyweight.
The most exciting point of the match came after Penn had already clinched the victory, when Ayala took on former Blair Academy teammate Frank Mattiace. After being tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, the two battled for the first minute of sudden victory with neither being able to score. After Mattiace received a second stalling warning to give Ayala a point, Ayala escaped and held on to win 3-1.
Despite a disappointing finish to the regular season, the Tigers have a lot to be excited for: both for their successful regular season and for the coming EIWA Tournament. Princeton concludes its season with a dual meet record of 11-4, which makes it the first time since the 1980-81 season that the Tigers recorded double-digit wins and fewer than five losses. With two weeks to prepare for the EIWA Tournament, the Tigers will have next weekend off as they ready themselves to qualify individually for the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City from March 20-22. The EIWA Tournament will be hosted by Penn from March 8-9.