Harvard's wrestling team does not forget bitter losses. When it faced Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the first of three matches Saturday at the IAB, the Crimson squad was determined to avenge last year's embarrassing loss to WPI. Junior Captain Sean Wallace set the tone for the day when, prior to the start, he announced, "This is a real grudge match."
It was the enthusiastic Worcester squad, however, that wrestled as though it held a grudge. WPI came storming back from a 19-11 deficit to defeat Harvard, 20-19, leaving the Crimson with frustrating memories for another year.
The four-team match at the IAB saw the Crimson rebound from that stunning loss to defeat the University of New Hampshire, with a loss to William & Mary sandwiched in between.
The telling moment in the day's first meet, though, came in the 167-lb, clash between WPI's Paul Wyman and Harvard freshman Kevin McGinty. Fifty seconds into that match--which marked the overall contest's midway mark--Wyman sent McGinty to the side of the mat with blood running from a cut eyelid. Harvard was forced to take notice--Worcester meant business.
Things looked promising for the Crimson when Captains Barry Bausano and Wallace scored impressive victories over their respective 177-lb. and 190-lb. opponents. All the squad had to do was prevent a big loss in the last two contests to win the match.
However, injured sophomore Kevin Wattles (heavyweight) proved unable to put the finishing touches on two cradle holds, each time allowing his opponent to escape and then go on the offensive. Wattles suffered a four-point defeat and Worcester was back in the match, 19-15.
Wattles, whose bruised ribs kept him out of practice last week, refused to blame the loss on that injury or on the sprained ankle he suffered in the first two minutes of the match. He simply explained that he "couldn't make the right moves." Bausano, though, offered that "it is always tough to wrestle when you're hurt," in particular noting that that "Kevin had a tough season."
In the final match, the delayed 118-lb. division, sophomore Steve Fabry had a tough time against senior Rich Testa of WPI, whose test at WPI earlier in the day forced the delay. With his teammates cheering wildly, Testa used his experience to overmatch Fabry and win the meet for Worcester.
To keep his squad fresh for the final match against UNH, a team that was clearly the weakest of the four teams present for the weekend match, Lee rested several of his front-line wrestlers in the second contest against a strong William & Mary squad. Harvard fell easily to W & M, with Lee forfeiting the heavyweight clash to rest Wattles for UNH.
Against UNH, the Crimson found a bright moment in an otherwise long and grueling day. Harvard drubbed the New Hampshire team, 28-10, as Bausano and Wallace completed three-victory days to assure the triumph. Wattles finished the meet with a 5-0 win, with UNH failing to register a point in the final four contests.
In the other battles of the day, WPI staged another remarkable comeback to defeat UNH, 21-20, before finally losing, 22-29, to the William & Mary squad that dominated the meet with a 3-0 record.
The Harvard wrestlers have their final contest before Christmas break tonight at the University of Massachusetts.