Grappling With Greatness
The Strauss that Roared
Expectation. The word evokes the image of hope and the possibility of failure. When somebody expects something, you can rise to the challenge or wither away and die. The Harvard wrestling team this year has not been performing up to expectation.
While the team's 8-2-1 record reflects a healthy winning percentage, the grapplers have been unable to put together the banner season that the coach, the team, the fans and the press expected.
This was a team that was going place fast. Every sign pointed to the season that Harvard had never had: Coast Guard Tourney Winner. Ivy League Champion, national championships...
However, the team has had its problems. While last year's team remained healthy and injury-free, this year's squad has been plagued by nagging, painful injuries. "Things have a way of averaging out," says Coach Johnny Lee, commenting on the debilitating problems that the Crimson has suffered.
While Co-Captain Paul Widerman watched from the sidelines. Worcester Polytechnic Institute sneaked by Harvard for a 19-17 early-season upset that shocked the East. Throughout reading period, the Crimson performed unambiguously, tying Springfield College, and narrowly beating East. Stroudsburg State. While whipping lightweights like Coast Guard and Lowell. the Crimson has failed to prove itself against a wrestling power.
In a narrow loss to powerful Wilkes College tranked 17th nationally in the preseason the Crimson wrestled without flair or drive.
"There has been no steady effort" Lee says "Our team has not wrestled well"
Like many winter coaches, Lee regrets the January exam period as it concerns his team's performance. "You cannot lose a lot of weight and study for exams at the same time."
Luckily, Harvard wrestling has a chance to come out of its tailspin. The future is not too bleak; the team is too good to fold. The formula is simple.
The Crimson has six Ivy League matches in the next two weeks. Harvard has never officially won the Ivy title, so a string of victories over the next two weeks would clinch the Crimson's first. By getting into a groove, the team will gain the necessary momentum that it needs toe perform at the Easterns.
For the first time this season, the grapplers are healthy. If sophomore Barry Bausano can make the 167-lb, weight class, Lee will have the powerful lineup that he has wanted all year. He has had the talent, but he has not been able to put it on the mat.
While Widerman tries to regain the finesse that he lost when he pulled ligaments in the knee, fellow. Tri-Captains Andy McNernry and Jim Phills continue to defend their top-10 national rankings. Neither has lost a dual-meet match and both anticipate another trip to the national championships.
The rest of the wrestlers have had trouble with consistency. Lee anticipates that the beginning of the second semester will give his team the opportunity to concentrate on wrestling, instead of exams. The over confidence that the team might have had at the beginning of the season has dissipated; now the team has something to prove.
Harvard wrestling has learned the hard way that winning is not as natural as breathing. However, with only two losses on its record, the squad can still become the best in Crimson history. The team can still that long awaited Ivy League crown.