This one may not have matched the drama from Saturday's thrilling 23-20 comeback win at Boston University, but the Princeton wrestling team finished a perfect New England weekend with a 21-16 win at Brown Sunday afternoon. The victory assures Princeton its first winning season since 2001, and it moves the team above the .500 mark in the Ivy League.
"I think the guys are starting to believe that we can be very good," head coach Chris Ayres said. "That's a huge component. Our training has been really good. At just about every weight class, we’ve been in better shape. I think we’ve been training hard. We are confident in our conditioning, and we are confident in our training ability."
"Success breeds success," said sophomore Abe Ayala, whose late pin clinched the comeback over Boston University. "We pride ourselves on being individuals who "compete courageously" and intend to inspire our teammates with our wrestling. That attitude translates to each performance, and our guys see that tough, technical wrestling leads to good outcomes. This weekend just compounded what we've already seen this season."
Princeton is now 8-2 on the season, and it has five of six duals since the start of 2014. The win over Brown began in unusual fashion, as the Tigers claimed a 6-0 lead when junior Ryan Cash scored an injury default win in the first period at 125. Both he and Vincent Moita shot at the same time and hit heads; Moita was unable to continue the match, leaving Cash with the win.
Brown evened the score with a fall at 133, but Princeton won the next four decisions to open an 18-6 lead. It started at 141 with a 10-4 from freshman Jordan Laster, who picked up his 18th victory of his season. Junior Adam Krop won at 149, and sophomore Kevin Moylan rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the final period with an escape, a takedown and riding time to clinch a 4-2 win.
Sophomore Judd Ziegler had four takedowns, including two in the first period, for a 9-4 win at 165. That gave Princeton some insurance, which it would need against a strong set of upperweights for Brown. After a 5-3 win at 174 for Brown's Ricky McDonald, the ninth-ranked Ophir Bernstein topped Princeton freshman Brett Harner 12-1 to get within striking distance.
For the second straight match, sophomore Abe Ayala assured the Tigers would leave victorious. One day after his late heroics at Boston University, he defeated Augustus Marker 8-3 to open an eight-point lead. Brown won at heavyweight, but Princeton still left with the overall victory.
"Everybody had big wins throughout the weekend, including today," Ayres said. "Guys like Laster, Moylan and Ziegler got huge wins for us, and we needed all of them. There is a confidence throughout the team, and everybody is building off it."
That depth has been a crucial aspect of Princeton's impressive run in dual meets. While injuries have forced Ayres to use multiple lineups, the Tigers have responded to almost every challenge.
"Those courageous performances are less the coaches placing the onus on other guys to step up and more those guys being eager to show their skills," Ayala said. "For instance, an injury to our heavyweight made room in the lineup for Troy Murtha; he completely seized the opportunity to brutalize his opponents and give the team a boost."
"The most important thing to take away from this weekend would probably be to use our conditioning every match and for the whole match," Ziegler said. "Most of the weekend we were very effective in tiring opponents out and being able to capitalize in the third period. It was one of our strengths and we need to stay fresh and excited for the rest of the year."
Princeton will try to clinch a winning Ivy League season Friday night when it hosts Columbia at 7 pm at Dillon Gym.
125 - Ryan Cash (P) def. Vincent Moita (Brown), Injury Default (2:48)
133 - Anthony Finocchiaro (B) fall Jake Intrator, 2:17
141 - Jordan Laster (P) dec. Jack Twomey-Kozak, 10-4
149 - Adam Krop (P) dec. Steven Galiardo, 9-4
157 - Kevin Moylan (P) dec. Justin Staudenmayer, 4-2
165 - Judd Ziegler (P) dec. Philip Morano, 9-4
174 - Ricky McDonald (B) dec. Ryan Callahan, 5-3
184 - No. 9 Ophir Bernstein (B) major dec. Brett Harner, 12-1
197 - Abe Ayala (P) dec. Augustus Marker, 8-3
285 - Ryder Cavey (B) dec. Troy Murtha, 6-4