At this point, it is safe to say that no wrestling squad in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association has had as large of a turnaround this season as Princeton. The Tigers (13-2, 3-1 Ivy) will look to complete an incredible rebound to this season when they take on Rider and Penn at home this weekend for their final regular season matches. Wins in both matches would mark an inverse performance for head coach Chris Ayres’ squad, as the team would go from a two-win team during the 2012-13 season to a two-loss record this season.
The Tigers will first host Rider (10-8) on Friday night in Dillon Gymnasium. Princeton will look for vengeance on a Broncs lineup that crushed the Tigers 32-11 in Rider University’s Alumni Gymnasium on Dec. 1, 2012. Three of Rider’s eight individual victors in last year’s dual, however, are no longer on the Broncs’ roster. Things have not been perfect for Rider as of late, either, as their last dual resulted in an embarrassing one-point loss to previously winless Cleveland State.
But the Broncs will not be a team for the Tigers to underestimate, as their lineup consists of a number of strong wrestlers who will look to score extra points on Friday night. Weighing in at 125 pounds, Robert Deutsch, who boasts a 26-4 overall record and 20-1 dual record, will look to start the match off strongly and show why he is currently ranked No. 11 in the nation at his weight class. Conor Brennan, who weighs 174 pounds, is riding an 11-match win streak, and the sophomore is currently 22-7 on the year. Additional strengths in the starting roster will make Rider a formidable opponent for the Tigers as they look to keep their six-match win streak alive.
Penn will pose as big of a challenge for the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. While the Quakers’ (6-6, 2-2) .500 record does not stand as remarkably impressive, convincing wins over Harvard and Columbia in two of their last three matches are shaping things up for a battle in Dillon Gym on Saturday.
Like Rider, Penn also hosts nationally ranked wrestlers who will look to secure wins on Saturday against the Tigers. Sophomore 165-pounder Judd Ziegler, who fell to Columbia’s Josh Houldsworth in a tough 8-5 decision last weekend, will face another nationally ranked opponent on Saturday in the form of No. 16 Casey Kent. Freshman Brett Harner will look to conclude his remarkable freshman regular season with a win over Penn’s Lorenzo Thomas, who was ranked No. 11 in the nation as of last weekend.
Regardless of this weekend’s outcome, the changed trajectory of Princeton wrestling is in large part due to the team’s leadership, particularly of its seniors. As this weekend marks the final home match for Ryan Callahan, Joe DeQuinzio, Garrett Frey, Seth Hazelton, Dan Santoro and Robert Shepherd, the team will honor these six men for their dedication and leadership to the team over the last several years.
Match time is set for 7 p.m. Friday night against Rider, and the whistle blows at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon to commence the Penn match. Both matches will be in Dillon.