The Princeton wrestling team trailed Columbia by nine points with three matches remaining Friday night. The total may have seemed daunting a week ago, but following Princeton's comeback from a 20-3 deficit at Boston University last Saturday, nothing felt impossible. This time, a trio of underclassmen capped another improbable finish for a gutsy young squad, which moved to 9-2 on the season with an 18-16 home win over the Lions.
Princeton (9-2, 3-1 Ivy) rallied to defeat Columbia (6-5, 0-2) for only the second time in the last 13 meetings. The win assures Princeton only its second winning record in the Ivy League since 1987, and it guarantees the Tigers no worse than a share of second place in the league. The Tigers can clinch second place (behind No. 6 Cornell) outright next Saturday with a home win over Penn.
The Tigers have shown impressive resilience during its current four-match win streak. They have trailed in three of the four matches, and they entered the final match trailing twice.
The latter of those two came against the Lions, who opened a 9-0 lead with three straight decisions. Junior Adam Krop got Princeton on the board with a 13-4 major decision at 149, and sophomore Kevin Moylan picked up one of the most important wins of the night at 157. Going against Columbia's win leader in Markus Scheidel, Moylan found himself trailing 2-0 after an early takedown.
Moylan used a late takedown in the second period to get within one point (3-2), and his escape in the third period evened the score. Moylan had the energy at the end to fight for a final takedown and a 5-3 win.
"Moylan was awesome tonight," said head coach Chris Ayres. "He broke his opponent by the end of the match. That was the one we really needed. He got the job done tonight."
Columbia battled back for a decision at 165 and a major at 174 to open a 16-7 lead, but Princeton still had a formidable trio remaining. Freshman Brett Harner started the run with an 11-2 major decision at 184, which ended with a takedown in the final seconds to clinch a major decision. It was Harner's 23rd win of the season, second only to Krop, and it moved Princeton to within five points.
Sophomore Abram Ayala, whose pin at heavyweight completed the comeback win at Boston University, picked up his 20th win of the season with a 14-5 major decision over Troy Hembury. That set the stage for freshman Ray O'Donnell, who moved into the starting lineup last month and has become a force at heavyweight.
He has a scoreless first period against Matt Idelson, but he turned Idelson midway through the second period for a 2-0 lead. He scored an escape and a takedown in the third to take control of an eventual 8-2 win.
"I told him that this was the new Ray," Ayres said. "It's not always a steady incline, but sometimes guys make big jumps. He really believes he belongs now. You don't know when they'll get there. It started this season with Abram, and tonight, it was Moylan and O'Donnell."
Princeton will look for its 10th win of the season Sunday at noon when it travels to Sacred Heart. The Pioneers are led by second-year head coach Any Lausier, who served as the Princeton assistant coach for four seasons. That stretch included the 2010 season, when Princeton earned its first winning Ivy League season since 1987.
PRINCETON 18, COLUMBIA 16
125 – Penn Gottfried (C) d. Ryan Cash 9-5
133 – Angelo Amenta (C) d. Garrett Frey 5-4
141 – Matt Bystol (C) d. Jordan Laster 2-0
149 – Adam Krop (P) md. Ryan Ponte 13-4
157 – Kevin Moylan (P) d. Markus Scheidel 5-3
165 – Josh Houldsworth (C) d. Judd Ziegler 8-5
174 – Shane Hughes (C) md. Ryan Callahan 10-1
184 – Brett Harner (P) md. Zack Hernandez 11-2
197 – Abram Ayala (P) md. Troy Hembury 14-5
285 – Ray O’Donnell (P) d. Matt Idelson 8-2