The Olympics Meet the MAC
In the 30 years of Ivy League wrestling competition, the Harvard wrestling team has never captured the league title.
A change may be on the horizon, though. That's because the Crimson has a new head wrestling coach, James Peckham, a 1956 U.S. Olympic wrestling team member and the U.S. Olympic wrestling team coach since 1972. Harvard's chances for Ivy glory can't help but increase.
"It's hard for me to predict [how the team will do this year] because I'm new in the ballpark and haven't gone through the league before," Peckham said. "I suspect four of the six Ivies--Brown, Cornell, Princeton and Columbia--to be strong this season."
The wrestling team started practicing in mid-October and competed in its first tournament of the season last week, defeating Boston University, Lowell College and Plymouth State.
"They've really improved dramatically in the first four weeks of the season," assistant wrestling Coach Paul Widerman said. "I think they're enjoying the more broad and focused coaching."
"Coach Peckham is a good motivator," Widerman added. "He's trying to push them to that high level. If they can stay healthy and continue to progress at the same rate, they will continue to do well."
Despite the early-season success, Peckham believes that the matmen have a lot more developing to do.
"It could have gone either way [in the tournament]," Peckham said. "We're not nearly good enough yet."
Peckham, who took over this season after 18-year veteran Harvard wrestling Coach John Lee retired, has already instituted new progams such as an in-season weight training program--utilizing throwing dummies--as well as out-of-season training.
"We need to do an almost immeasurable amount of work for them to reach their potential," Peckham said. "It's possible, but it will take a lot of work. For us to win [the Ivy title] everything would have to fall into place. We can't have setbacks."
Although the season has just started, the matmen have already sustained a fistful of physical injuries--a broken hand, broken finger, bruised neck, torn ribs, sprained ankles--that have kept a number of wrestlers out of action for lengths of time ranging from three days to six weeks.
"We can't have any more injuries depletions--we're hurting already," Peckham said. "We're very thin in some weight classes. We've got to keep them healthy and teach them as much as possible, because the more knowledge and better condition they have, the more confidence they'll have."
Peckham is not at a complete loss for talent, however, with co-captains Steve Farrell, Jerry Greenberg and Jeff Clark forming the talented "backbone" of the team.
Peckham is not only working on the immediate needs of the team, but also on improvements that will make the Harvard wrestling program stronger as a whole.
"We need to install a long range of systems," Peckham said. "There are four areas we need to improve--upgrading equipment, administrative coordination, raising money, and recruiting. They are all long-range goals but immediate ones because something has to be done about them now."