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Ayala earns Princeton's only automatic NCAA bid at EIWA Championships

A weekend of high hopes for the wrestling team came up short of overall expectations this weekend at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships in Philadelphia. While five of the Tigers’ 10 representatives found their way to the podium, unfortunate breaks and circumstantial matchups gave Princeton only one automatic NCAA qualifier.

Facing stiff competition at the lower weights, the Tigers were unable to medal in the first three weight classes. Junior 125-pounder Ryan Cash fell in his first match to Lehigh’s Darian Cruz, and after winning his first consolation match was knocked off by Chris McGinley of Boston University. Senior 133-pounder Garrett Frey dropped two straight matches after a decisive 9-4 win over Brown’s Anthony Finocchiaro in one of the tournament’s opening matches. In a season filled with close matches against top-ranked opponents, freshman 141-pounder Jordan Laster picked up two victories in his first EIWA Tournament outing. Laster would fall to Tyler Rauenzahn of Army by a score of 8-3 in the wrestlebacks, just one match shy of placing in the top eight.

Sophomore Judd Ziegler experienced similar disappointment to Laster at 165 pounds, where Ziegler fell to the tournament’s fourth seed before winning two consolation matches to have a shot at placing in the top eight. But an 11-6 loss to Devon Gobbo of Harvard ended Ziegler’s chances at qualifying for nationals. In his final EIWA appearance, senior Ryan Callahan won two matches and lost two, coming up two matches short of a place on the podium.

At 149 pounds, high hopes for junior Adam Krop started to dwindle on Saturday, as the Maryland native dropped his quarterfinal bout to move to the consolation bracket. Wins by major decision and fall, respectively, in his next two matches had Krop just one match shy of wrestling for third place, in a bracket where the top four automatically qualify to wrestle at NCAA’s in Oklahoma City. Facing nationally ranked Cody Ruggirello of Hofstra, though, Krop dropped a 7-4 decision, which placed him in the fifth place bout. After claiming fifth with a win over Navy’s Alex Johnson, Krop will have to wait and see if he receives an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore 157-pounder Kevin Moylan and freshman Ray O’Donnell both found their way to the podium, as the two underclassmen finished eighth in their respective weight classes. Continuing what has been a strong freshman campaign, 184-pounder Brett Harner dropped a tough overtime loss in the quarterfinals on Saturday to Harvard’s Cameron Croy. But three consolation matches later, Harner found himself wrestling against Croy again, where he defeated him 3-2 for fifth place. While the top four wrestlers at 184 pounds receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, Harner will join Krop in seeing whether he receives an at-large bid to Oklahoma City in two weeks. The ultimate bright spot for the Tigers was sophomore 197-pounder Abram Ayala, who entered this weekend ranked No. 20 in the nation and as the sixth seed in the tournament. Two victories in his first two matches made Ayala the only Princeton wrestler to reach the EIWA semifinals, but losses to Cornell’s Jack Bennett and Navy’s Paul Rands saw Ayala wrestling for fifth on Sunday, which he earned via medical forfeit. Despite his semifinal loss on Saturday, Ayala had already clinched a berth to the NCAA Tournament, as the top seven wrestlers at 197 pounds receive automatic bids to Oklahoma City.


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