So this is the big time.
After feasting on Division III opponents in its previous tournament, the Harvard wrestling team faced a host of powerful Division-I schools this weekend at the Coast Guard Tournament, held at New London, Connecticut.
While the Crimson could not dominate the mats as it did two weekends ago at the Springfield Invitational, the grapplers held their own in a 14-team field that featured the two top teams in the nation, Iowa and Oklahoma State.
The Crimson finished the weekend in fifth place, earning team points in the 118, 126, 134 and 158-pound divisions. Boston University and Brown, both ranked in the top-20 nationally, finished fourth and third respectively. Iowa edged out Oklahoma to win the tournament.
"This was our first real test of the year," freshman Dustin Denunzio said. "I'm pretty happy with how we did."
As in previous tournaments, the Crimson suffered from a lack of depth at the higher weight classes. This weekend's tournament was no different.
Harvard did not place a wrestler in the top four in any weight classes above the 150-pound division. The Crimson did not even enter any wrestlers into the double-elimination draws at the 177-pound and 190-pound divisions.
"We're really lacking in the higher weight classes," junior Craig Vitagliano said. "We just don't have enough bodies."
It was in the lower weight classes that the Crimson collected most of its points.
In the 118-pound division Vitagliano finished third, losing to wrestlers from Iowa and Oklahoma State.
Denunzio continued his impressive early season performance and finished second at 126-pound weight class. Denunzio lost twice to the eventual champion, all-American Terry Brands from Iowa.
"I really gained a lot of experience wrestling an all-American," Denunzio said.
Freshman Joel Friedman finished third in the 134-pound weight class, losing to the first and second place finishers.
"The freshman did really well," Vitaglio said. "Especially considering that they lacked a lot of college experience."
Tri-captain Khris Reina finished fourth in the 150-pound weight class.
For their first encounter with top-ranked competition, the grapplers proved themselves to be formidable opponents and came away with more than a fifth-place finish.
"I think we gained a lot of experience," Vitagliano said. "But there's certainly room for improvement."