Check back later this week for more on Saturday's "Celebration Of New Jersey Wrestling, including a TigerCast interview with Garrett Frey and a feature on Princeton's own New Jersey state champions, Joe Dubuque and Ryan Callahan.
A rivalry that dates back to the 1920s and a competition that dates back to the 1930s will both be celebrated Saturday in a building that can stand with any in the state in terms of tradition within the great sport of wrestling.
Princeton (3-0, 2-0 EIWA) will host Rutgers (5-2, 2-0 EIWA) Saturday at 5 pm in the highlight of a “Celebration of New Jersey Wrestling.” It will serve as the main event in a day filled with activities to honor both high school wrestling and those who have done it best in the state of New Jersey.
“The tradition of wrestling in New Jersey has no equal,” Princeton head coach Chris Ayres said. “We are excited to celebrate the history of wrestling in this state, and we’re looking forward to renewing our rivalry with Rutgers. This is a very big day for our program, and our guys are ready.”
The Tigers are moving out of their normal confines of Dillon Gym and returning the Orange and Black mat to Jadwin Gym for the first time since the 2012 EIWA Championships. Jadwin may seem like an unlikely place to hold a wrestling match, but this is a building that has crowned both state and NCAA champions.
On Saturday, it will welcome back several of those champions.
Thirty-five former state champions (as of Tuesday afternoon) will be honored during halftime of Saturday’s match between the state’s top two collegiate programs. Those champions will span a range of nearly 70 years, including Lawrence Mackey, the 1941 175-pound state champion from Somerville High.
According to several publications, the first set of New Jersey state champions were crowned in 1934; more than two decades’ worth of those titles were won in Jadwin Gym, which hosted the championship weekend until 1991. That same building has hosted five EIWA Championships, as well as the 1975 and 1981 NCAA Championships.
Possibly the only tradition related to New Jersey wrestling that predates the state championships is the rivalry between Princeton and Rutgers. The first meeting was held during the 1927-28 season, and Princeton was the dominant power in the early years.
Rutgers has controlled the rivalry recently, winning 16 straight dual matches to take over the series lead 37-35-5. The last time Princeton won this match was a 19-15 victory during the 1989-90 season.
While the Princeton coaching staff, including two-time New Jersey state champion Joe Dubuque (Glen Ridge), has made sure Saturday will serve as a tribute to the tradition of New Jersey wrestling, it also wants to continue developing the excitement surrounding both the present and future of the Tiger program.
Princeton comes into Saturday with a perfect 3-0 record, including two league wins during the Grapple at the Garden in Madison Square Garden. Last weekend, with a lineup that featured eight underclassmen, Princeton earned its first team win over Binghamton in dominant fashion. The 27-5 Tiger win included nine individual Princeton victories, including four from sophomores and three from freshmen.
The two Tiger upperclassmen who earned wins are both former NCAA qualifiers who are making their Princeton returns. Senior Garrett Frey (125) is a three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time EIWA finalist, while Adam Krop (141) is ranked 16th nationally by InterMat and qualified for the 2012 NCAA Championships.
Ironically, the last time both wrestled at Princeton, it was at Jadwin Gym. Frey reached the 2012 EIWA final, while Krop picked up a victory before defaulting with a knee injury that ultimately kept him out for the 2012-13 season.
Rutgers has been led by Billy Smith, currently ranked 18th by InterMat, and two-time state champion Vincent Dellefave (Toms River East), who qualified for the NCAA Championships last year.
The Princeton-Rutgers match will be the highlight of a day filled with wrestling activities.
The Tiger Classic will open the day at 11:30. The match will feature the Princeton Amateur Wrestling Society (PAWS) against the Flemington Elks.
At 2:30, a pair of former state champions will host a free clinic. Princeton assistant coach Joe Dubuque (2000, 2001 state champion; 2005, 2006 NCAA champion) and Rutgers assistant coach Frank Molinaro (2005-2007 state champion; 2012 NCAA champion).
All high school wrestling programs in attendance will be recognized prior to the start of the match, and the state champions will be honored at halftime of the match.
Saturday will also be Alumni Day for the Princeton Wrestling program, and there will be a social afterwards.