Before the year began, Princeton wrestling head coach Chris Ayres talked about two major steps he hoped his program would take in the 2009-10 season. He wanted to see more team victories, a mission the team accomplished in impressive fashion. And he wanted to make sure Princeton was represented at the NCAA Championships; those bids will be up for grabs this weekend at the 106th EIWA Championships.
The 2010 championship will be held at Lehigh's Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa. To official meet web site, which will include links for live results, video and directions, can be found here.
Each of the 10 weight classes will be contested, and a team champion will be honored. Cornell is a strong favorite, while host Lehigh is the most likely to challenge for the title. Just as importantly, a certain amount of wrestlers from each weight will qualify for the 2010 NCAA Championships, which will be held in two weeks in Omaha.
Below is a breakdown of Princeton's 10 competitors this weekend. In the parentheses next to each weight class is the number of NCAA qualifiers that weight will receive.
125 (4) – Garrett Frey is Princeton’s winningest wrestler of the season and one of its best chances at an NCAA qualifier. He went 24-6 as a freshman, although he lost his final two matches of the season. In the final EIWA rankings, he was fifth overall and is likely to be one of the eight seeded wrestlers in the draw. He faced the EIWA’s third-ranked Jasen Borschoff (American) early in the season and dropped a tight 5-3 decision. With the reigning NCAA champion Troy Nickerson (Cornell) in the field, Frey will likely be one of many contenders for the three other NCAA qualifying spots.
133 (5) – Freshman Zach Bintliff has dealt with injury throughout the season, but he ended strong, including a key fall in Princeton’s victory over Columbia to guarantee a winning Ivy League record. Bintliff ended the year with eight wins, and two of them came in his final four matches. Five spots are on the line in this weight class, but Bintliff may need to avenge at least one of his earlier losses to grab one; he was winless against three of the EIWA’s top five (Cornell’s Mike Grey, Rutgers’ Bill Ashnault and Penn’s Bryan Ortenzio).
141 (3) – Fellow freshman Luis Ramos was one of the pleasant surprises for Ayres this season. He won 14 matches overall and nearly upset the fourth-ranked wrestler in the EIWA, Penn’s Zack Kemmerer, in the season finale. With a league low three spots on the line, Ramos will need to either reach the finals or win the third-place match to qualify for NCAAs, and he faces a tough path. Of the top three ranked competitors in this class, Ramos was pinned by Cornell’s Kyle Dake — a potential NCAA favorite — and was teched by Rutgers’ Trevor Melde.
149 (4) – One of the most interesting seedings could come at 149, where sophomore Daniel Kolodzik made some noise late in the season. The second-team All-Ivy honoree went 4-1 in the Ivy League and upset Rutgers’ David Greenwald earlier in the season. Following a tough January, Kolodzik bounced back last month and went 6-1, including a technical fall against Penn and majors against both Columbia and Boston University. When Kolodzik gets rolling, he has the ability to pick off some of the top seeds in the league.
157 (5) – Second-team All-Ivy honoree Danny Scotton ended the year as hot as any wrestler in Orange and Black. He won a career-best 15 matches, including each of his final five. He won Princeton’s only match in the Cornell dual, and his only loss in February came by major decision to the nation’s top-ranked wrestler, Harvard’s J.P. O’Connor. As a senior, Scotton is going into the EIWA championships wrestling as well as he ever has in his Princeton career and is talented enough to cause real damage in a weight that could open up beyond the top two seeds (O’Connor and American’s Steve Fittery).
165 (6) – The good news for sophomore Andy Lowy is that any spot on the medal podium will be enough to reach nationals. The bad news is that Lowy is coming into the weekend rusty after late-season injuries cost him the final two weeks of the regular season. Lowy is 15-12, but faces a loaded weight class (which is why the EIWA earned the six spots). He hasn’t wrestled any of the EIWA’s ranked competitors yet this season, but is capable of an upset at any point of the weekend.
174 (4) – Junior Travis Erdman bounced back from a tough sophomore season and earned a winning record with a red-hot 2010 portion of the season. Through New Year’s Eve, Erdman had gone 6-11; since then, he is 9-3. Furthermore, two of those losses came to the league’s top two wrestlers, Cornell’s undefeated Mack Lewnes and Penn’s Scott Giffin. Prior to those losses, Erdman won six straight, including three by fall, and had wild wins against both Brown and Columbia to help earn team victories.
184 (4) – Sophomore Kurt Brendel is entering his second EIWA Championships with the second-most wins (17) on the Princeton roster. He has proven since the start of his freshman season that he is a talented competitor capable of a big win, but he is in a brutal weight class. There are four spots available for the NCAA Championships, and the top four in the EIWA are also among the Top 16 wrestlers ranked nationally. Brendel is 0-2 against that top four, though he does have two wins in his final four matches.
197 (4) – Freshman Charles Fox has nine wins on the season, including one in the Ivy League, but will need the best weekend of his young career to earn a bid to NCAAs. He wrestled two of the top three in the EIWA late in the season and had a close loss to third-ranked Micah Burak of Penn in the final match of the season.
HWT (3) – Freshman Bobby Grogan had five wins on the season, but he ended on a high note with a 5-3 victory over Penn. Ayres is confident in Grogan’s athleticism and is hopeful that the exclamation point to his regular season gives his heavyweight some added confidence heading into Easterns.