EMAIL Coach Ayres at cayres@Princeton.EDU
Chris Ayres was no stranger to EIWA individual or team success when he was hired as the head coach of Princeton wrestling during the spring of 2006. He was a stranger to the kind of dormant program Princeton had become, and he has been determined to change that over his first seven seasons at Princeton.
While he was able to see the smaller changes in the first two years, he wanted everybody to know Princeton was on the rise.
Over the last few seasons, the nation has taken notice.
Over the last four seasons, Princeton has placed 14 times at the EIWA Championships, while it had only placed a combined four times in the six seasons prior. The Tigers have also sent five wrestlers to the NCAA Championships, including three-time qualifier Garrett Frey and Daniel Kolodzik, a 2012 first-team All-Ivy League selection.
Injuries derailed Princeton during the 2012-13 season, though there were some individual highlights. Freshman Scott Gibbons recorded 23 victories, the second-most for a Princeton newcomer in more than a decade, while junior Ryan Callahan finished one point short of NCAAs and upset two higher seeds during his run at EIWAs, including the 13th-ranked wrestler in the nation.
He will have a large group of his most successful wrestlers, including Frey, Gibbons and Callahan, for the 2013-14 season, as well as former Top 15 standout Adam Krop and 2012 EIWA placewinner Chris Perez. Frey, Krop and Perez all missed the 2012-13 seasons with injuries.
Though team success has been slow to come, there have also been highlights there. After not winning a single team match in either of his first two seasons, Princeton won nine during the 2009-10 season, including three Ivy League matches alone. The Tigers finished third in the Ivy League with a 3-2 record and earned their first winning Ivy record since 1987.
Individual successes were also present early on. As a freshman, Garrett Frey upset two higher-seeded wrestlers in the 125-pound bracket at the 2010 EIWA Championships and earned Princeton's first NCAA qualification since 2005.
Since then, Frey has made two trips to the NCAA Championships; during the 2011-12 season, he was able to share the experience with teammates Kolodzik and Krop. Kolodzik reached the Round of 12 before getting eliminated, while both Frey and Krop won a match at the Championships.
Princeton served as host for the 2012 EIWA Championships, a testament to the credibility Ayres has brought back to the program. He has also brought in some high-level assistant coaches; he welcomed former Boston University assistant Sean Gray prior to the 2011-12 season, and he will be joined by two-time NCAA champion Joe Dubuque for the 2012-13 season.
Ayres, who spent 2001-2006 as an assistant coach at Lehigh University, became the 10th head coach of Princeton wrestling in the summer of 2006. "We are thrilled to have Chris Ayres take over our wrestling program," director of athletics Gary Walters said during the announcement of Ayres' hiring. "We believe he is one of the very talented coaches in collegiate wrestling, and we're confident he will provide excellent leadership as we attempt to restore the fortunes of Princeton wrestling."
"I am honored and excited to be part of the Princeton athletics staff," Ayres, a 1999 graduate of Lehigh, said at the time. "Every time I met somebody affiliated with Princeton, whether it was a staff member, alumnus, student-athlete or fan, I came away impressed. Throughout the process I was more and more drawn to Princeton with each person I met. My goal is to help student-athletes reach their goals in wrestling, school, and ultimately life, and the Princeton Athletics staff shares those same ideals. Princeton seems to bring the best out of people and I can't imagine a better place to continue my coaching career."
A former EIWA champion and two-time recipient of Lehigh's "Outstanding Athlete" honor during his undergraduate career at Lehigh, Ayres joined the coaching staff in June 2001. During his tenure, the Mountain Hawks claimed five straight EIWA team championships and produced 12 All-Americas and two national champions. Ayres worked specifically with five of the All-Americas in all aspects of training.
A superior mat coach, Ayres also brings a highly regarded recruiting ability to Princeton. He was an integral part of every aspect of five recruiting classes, and his most recent recruiting class will bring a combined 14 state championships to Princeton.
"Although there are a lot of factors that contribute to the development of a top national wrestling program, my main goal is to provide each individual on the Princeton wrestling team the direction and opportunities necessary to be the best they can be in wrestling," Ayres said. "Through this process I also hope to shed light on the lessons learned in sport that will later be applied in life. As well as training the current team, I look forward to recruiting and training the next generation of Princeton wrestlers. Princeton athletics has a long history of attracting and developing the best and brightest student-athletes and it is my intention to continue that tradition in wrestling."
Ayres came to the Lehigh wrestling program as an undergraduate walk-on, but ended his career among the best in Mountain Hawk history. While at Lehigh, Ayres established a new school record with 120 career victories, and in 1998 he amassed the most wins in a single season for a Lehigh wrestler with 39. He won the 150-pound EIWA championship as a junior and earned All-America honors at 157 pounds as the NCAA sixth-place finisher during his senior season. Over his four-year career, he never missed a dual match. In the summer of 2001, Ayres placed fourth in the U.S. Senior Open Nationals and fourth at the U.S. World Team Trials. He also finished fifth at the 2002 Team Trials.
Prior to wrestling for Lehigh, Ayres wrestled at Newton High School and Blair Academy in New Jersey, where he won 69 bouts. In his senior season Ayres was a District Champion and a regional runner-up at 135 pounds. With a model work ethic, Ayres was the first Lehigh Wrestler in 38 years to become an All-American without earning a medal at the state championship level.
He earned his undergraduate degree in marketing and earned his master’s in elementary education at Lehigh in 2001. Ayres and his wife Lori have a daughter Chloe and a son Atticus.