Before the 2014 EIWA Championships began, head coach Chris Ayres called Abram Ayala the team's inspiration this season. He will inspire Princeton all the way to Oklahoma City this year, as his 4-3 quarterfinal upset of third-seeded Daniel Mitchell clinched both a spot in Sunday's semifinals and a berth at the NCAA Championships.
While Ayala is still alive for Princeton's first EIWA individual title since 2003, four of his teammates are still chasing NCAA berths. Junior Adam Krop (141), sophomore Kevin Moylan (157) and freshmen Brett Harner (184) and Ray O'Donnell (285) are still alive in the consolation draw.
Princeton is currently in ninth place with 42 points, though teams in the middle of the pack are closely bunched. There is only a five-point difference between sixth-place Army (45) and 12th-place Harvard (40).
Ayala reached his first NCAA Championships with an 8-3 first-round win over Columbia's Matt Idelson. He trailed Mitchell 2-0 on a reversal, but he scored an escape and a takedown on a double for a 3-2 lead. Mitchell escaped to even the score at 3-3, but Ayala escaped to open the third and fended off any charge to earn the 4-3 win.
Ayala will now take on second-seeded Jace Bennett of Cornell in the semifinal; Bennett won a close regular season matchup 8-6.
Krop was the fourth seed at 149, but he got caught in a scramble against fifth-seeded Ken Theobold and was pinned at the 1:42 mark. He earned a consolation win, and will take on eighth-seeded Noel Blanco of Drexel to begin his Sunday. With four bids at stake, Krop will need to win twice Sunday, and one will have to be against a higher seed, either second-seeded Mitchell Minotti of Lehigh or third-seeded Cody Ruggirello of Hofstra.
Moylan opened his day with a major decision over Casey Mitchell of Sacred Heart, but he fell 10-2 to third-seeded Joseph Napoli of Lehigh in the quarterfinal. The road won't get any easier on Sunday, as Moylan will open against second-seeded Brian Realbuto of Cornell; the two did not meet during the regular season.
Harner overcame an early deficit in the first round for a 7-3 victory, and he went to overtime with Harvard's Cameron Croy in the quarterfinal. Neither could earn a takedown in the first seven minutes, but Croy got one in overtime and used it to advance to the semifinal. Harner won his first consolation match, and will open Sunday against eighth-seeded Caleb Wallace of Binghamton. If he wins, he would need to defeat either Brown's Ophir Bernstein or Penn's Lorenzo Thomas to qualify for the NCAA Championships; both are seeded higher than Harner, and both defeated Harner during the regular season.
O'Donnell showed plenty of toughness during his first match. He gave up the first takedown of his match with Kevin Innis of Boston University, but he used a pair of escapes to even the score at 2-2 entering the final period. Innis chose down, and O'Donnell kept his there for the full two minutes to earn a riding time point and a 3-2 win. He was pinned by second-seeded Joe Stolfi of Bucknell in the quarters, but he stayed alive with a 5-0 win in the consolations. His Sunday begins with a tough matchup against third-seeded Tyler Deuel of Binghamton.
Every Princeton wrestler won at least one match Saturday, but Ryan Cash (125), Garrett Frey (133), Jordan Laster (141), Judd Ziegler (165) and Ryan Callahan (174) each suffered two losses during the day and were eliminated from the championships.
R16: #3 Darian Cruz (Leh) TF Ryan Cash 18-3 (7:00)
C2: Cash d. Max Mejia (Harvard) 10-5
C3: Chris McGinley (BU) d. Cash 14-4
Pigtail: Garrett Frey d. Anthony Finocchiaro (Brown) 9-4
R16: #6 Kevin Devoy (Drexel) md. Frey 15-2
C2: #3 Colton Rasche (Navy) p. Frey 2:00
Pigtail: Jordan Laster d. David Pearce (Drexel) 5-1
R16: #5 Laike Gardner (Lehigh) d. Laster 5-2
C2: Laster d. Andrew Polidore (Sacred Heart) 9-5
C3: Tyler Rauenzahn (Army) d. Laster 8-3
R16: #4 Adam Krop d. Nick Tourville (B.U.) 9-4
QF: #5 Ken Theobold (Rut) p. #4 Krop 1:50
C3: #4 Krop md. Ryan Ponte (Col) 14-1
R16: #6 Kevin Moylan md. Casey Mitchell (Sacred Heart) 15-2
QF: #3 Joseph Napoli (Leh) md. #6 Moylan 10-2
C3: #6 Moylan d. Ray Schlitt (Buck) 4-2
R16: #4 Josh Houldsworth (Col) md. Judd Ziegler 8-1
C1: Ziegler d. Jason Fugiel (Drexel) 4-0
C2: Ziegler wins by forfeit
C3: #7 Devon Gobbo (Har) d. Ziegler 11-6
Pigtail: Ryan Callahan d. Zachary Moore (Sacred Heart) 8-4
R16: #3 Matthew Miller (Navy) d. Callahan 8-2
C1: Callahan d. Jack McKeever (Bing) 5-1
C2: Frank Affronti (Hof) d. Callahan 9-2
R16: #5 Brett Harner d. Conan Schuster (Sacred Heart) 7-3
QF: Cameron Croy (Har) d. #5 Harner 3-1 (OT)
C3: #5 Harner md. #7 Zack Diekel 11-0
R16: #6 Abram Ayala d. Matt Idelson (Col) 8-3
QF: #6 Ayala d. #3 Daniel Mitchell (American) 4-3
R16: #7 Ray O’Donnell d. Kevin Innis (BU) 3-2
QF: #2 Joe Stolfi (Bucknell) p. #7 O’Donnell 3:19
C3: #7 O’Donnell d. Colynn Cook (Navy) 5-0