TOURNAMENT CENTRAL (where updated brackets will be posted throughout the weekend)
From earning the league's confidence in hosting the EIWAs to doing all of the work necessary in putting on a first-class event, the Princeton wrestling program has done almost everything needed to make the 108th EIWA Championships a memorable weekend at Jadwin Gymnasium.
Of course, the last step is the most important one. It's the one that takes place on the mats.
Princeton will host the 2012 EIWA Championships, which will begin Saturday morning at 9 on the main floor of Jadwin Gymnasium. This will be the fifth time Jadwin has hosted the Championships, though it will be the first since 1987.
Coming off a year when Princeton placed five at the 2011 Championships, including three returning starters (Garrett Frey, Zach Bintliff and Daniel Kolodzik), the Tigers are looking to break into the top half of the league standings when the league's 14 programs begin competition. Saturday will take the championship brackets through the semifinals, while Sunday morning will include consolation semis and place finals.
The championship finals will begin Sunday at 3, and head coach Chris Ayres is hopeful that Princeton can get at least one representative into that session. After all, since 2003, the Tigers have had only one EIWA finalist (Frey, 2010).
Frey will be one major contender, as he returns at 125. Though he missed most of February, he returns healthy and ready to go. Preseeded second Thursday night, he will enter the weekend with a 23-8 record and the experience of two straight trips to the NCAA Championships. Frey scored a win over top-seeded Frank Perelli of Cornell last year, and would love nothing more than a second shot at a Big Red opponent in a final.
Sophomore Adam Krop is Princeton's highest-ranked wrestler in the latest NCAA Coaches Panel (15th), and he should be among the top 3-4 seeds at 141. Krop, who placed third at the prestigious Midlands Championships, went 27-10 this year and earned second-team All-Ivy League honors.
Kolodzik finished even higher on the All-Ivy League team. He became Princeton's first honoree on the All-Ivy League First Team since Greg Parker '03 in 2003, and he did so after the best season of his career. Kolodzik went 28-7 this season and ranked third nationally in technical falls at the end of the regular season. Kolodzik won his last 13 matches, including a major decision over No. 4 Walter Peppelman in Princeton's dual win over Harvard; the Crimson was ranked 23rd at the time, which gave Princeton its first Top 25 win in more than a decade.
Kolodzik, who also placed at Midlands, is currently ranked 16th in the latest NCAA Coaches Poll and needs at least a top-six finish to be assured his first trip to the NCAA Championships (find out how man automatic qualifiers the EIWA earned here). Kolodzik is in a loaded weight class, which will be led by reigning NCAA champion Kyle Dake.
Two other seniors will be looking for a dramatic run to NCAAs, though both will need to do it as either lower seeds or unseeded wrestlers. 174-pounder Andy Lowy earned All-Ivy Honorable Mention after going 19-11 as a senior. His best season of a four-year starting career was highlighted by a 13-6 decision over Cornell's Marshall Peppelman and a 13-1 major over Ethan Headlee of Pittsburgh. Lowy was preseeded seventh at 174.
After missing last season, 197-pounder Kurt Brendel is coming into the weekend with some momentum. He started his season 3-11 while trying to shake off the rust, but he has won 15 of 23 since then. Among those was a 42-second pin of Harvard's Bryan Panzano to clinch the Tigers' team win over Harvard. Brendel was preseeded eighth at 197.
Bintliff had his struggles early in the season, but he might be one of the more dangerous lurkers at 149. After placing eighth last year, he opened his season with a 5-9 mark. Since then, he has gone 9-4, and he comes into the weekend with six victories in his last eight matches.
Freshman Chris Perez leads all Tiger freshmen with 16 victories, and he will make his EIWA Championships debut at 133. He has worked tirelessly to get back from an injury suffered at Harvard, and head coach Chris Ayres is excited to see what he can bring to the mat this weekend. He showed his ability to get hot with eight wins over a 10-match stretch in the middle of the season.
Fellow freshman Rich Eva will also make his EIWA debut at 165, while sophomore Dan Santoro (184) and junior Charles Fox (285) will both make their returns to the championship weekend. Both Santoro and Fox will be looking for their first EIWA wins.