Chris Ayres was no stranger to EIWA individual or team success when he was hired as the head coach of Princeton wrestling during the spring of 2006. He was a stranger to the kind of dormant program Princeton had become, and he has been determined to change throughout a decade at Princeton.
These types of changes don't happen overnight, but with enough dedication to the goal, they can happen. And as you can measure by the chart below, they are happening. The first set of numbers include the last three years prior to Ayres' arrival, as well as his first three as head coach.
The rest measure the six years of his program when at least one class had been with him all four years. The development has been incredible.
2003-04 through 2009-10
|2009-10 through 2014-15|
|All-Ivy League Honors||3 (0 1st, 1 2nd, 3 HM)||17 (2 1st, 8 2nd, 7 HM)|
|D-I Dual Victories (Ivy Wins)||4 (0)||40 (11)|
|Top-25 Recruiting Classes||0||4|
Here's another way of looking at it. In Ayres' last two seasons, Princeton has gone 20-13, 6-4 in the Ivy League, and it has sent six guys to NCAAs. Freshman Jonathan Schliefer earned the program's first Ivy League Rookie of the Year honor, while junior Abram Ayala has made two trips to NCAAs, including one as the seventh seed.
In Ayres' first two years, Princeton went 0-35 and rarely had to worry about the postseason after Day 1 of the EIWAs.
Speaking of EIWAs, not only Ayres is working to bring Princeton back to the top of the nation's second-deepest wrestling league, but he has already brought the second-deepest wrestling league back to Princeton. Jadwin Gym served as host for the 2012 EIWA Championships, and it will do so again in 2016.
Of course, this isn't a solo venture. Ayres has brought in one of the most credible staffs in the nation; Sean Gray, a two-time All-America wrestler at Virginia Tech, spent seven seasons as the top assistant at Boston University. Joe Dubuque is a two-time NCAA champion and one of the finest wrestlers ever produced in New Jersey. Joe Jamison has been a dedicated volunteer assistant, and previous assistant Andy Lausier is helping rebuild the Sacred Heart program as its head coach.
But the constant all along has been Ayres, whose combination of positivity and passion for the sport carried Princeton through several tough years and into potentially one of the most exciting eras in a century of Tiger wrestling.
A former EIWA champion and two-time recipient of Lehigh's "Outstanding Athlete" honor during his undergraduate career at Lehigh, Ayres spent five years as a Lehigh assistant before taking over at Princeton. During his tenure, the Mountain Hawks claimed five straight EIWA team championships and produced 12 All-Americas and two national champions. Ayres worked specifically with five of the All-Americas in all aspects of training.
Ayres came to the Lehigh wrestling program as an undergraduate walk-on, but ended his career among the best in Mountain Hawk history. While at Lehigh, Ayres established a new school record with 120 career victories, and in 1998 he amassed the most wins in a single season for a Lehigh wrestler with 39. He won the 150-pound EIWA championship as a junior and earned All-America honors at 157 pounds as the NCAA sixth-place finisher during his senior season. Over his four-year career, he never missed a dual match. In the summer of 2001, Ayres placed fourth in the U.S. Senior Open Nationals and fourth at the U.S. World Team Trials. He also finished fifth at the 2002 Team Trials.
Prior to wrestling for Lehigh, Ayres wrestled at Newton High School and Blair Academy in New Jersey, where he won 69 bouts. In his senior season Ayres was a District Champion and a regional runner-up at 135 pounds. With a model work ethic, Ayres was the first Lehigh Wrestler in 38 years to become an All-American without earning a medal at the state championship level.
He earned his undergraduate degree in marketing and earned his master’s in elementary education at Lehigh in 2001. Ayres and his wife Lori have a daughter Chloe and a son Atticus.