Home at last, home at last. The Harvard wrestlers are home at last. They have been to Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania. They have traveled the country coast to coast, and finally they are home.
This weekend the Crimson grapplers (6-6 overall) host their only home meets of the season at the Malkin Athletic Center.
But this homecoming is not without its challenges, for nationally-ranked Cornell is hoping to spoil the party. The Big Red (4-3 overall) is currently 20th and boasts two top-ten wrestlers. Carl Keske is ranked seventh at 134 pounds and Carlos Eason sixth at 190 pounds.
But challenge is nothing new to the Crimson wrestlers, who have confronted an exceptionally hard schedule all year long. They competed against the wrestling elite of the nation in the three tournaments that opened their season. And recently they fell in a hard-fought battle to 12th-ranked Penn.
And so, having endured their trial by fire, the wrestlers are optimistic about the prospect of an upset before a home crowd.
"We're excited," junior co-captain Joel Friedman said. "We match up pretty well against them--we're strong where they're weak. We might be able to pull one off."
As for the wrestlers who will have to face Keske and Eason?
"They're certainly not going to walk out on the mat and roll over," Friedman said. "We've faced ranked opponents all year. It's nothing new."
The prospect of a zealous home crowd is very appealing to the wrestlers, who have faced hostile fans all year long. In a sport that gets little publicity at any level, the thrill of a cheering fan base can be intoxicating. So obviously Friedman is hoping to "Pack the Mac" at 7:30 tonight.
But there is no rest for the weary. Harvard will host a tri-meet with Columbia and UMass-Lowell at noon tomorrow. So whether they are riding a wave of elation or sorrow following the Cornell meet, the wrestlers will have little time to re-focus.
In a sport that is as emotional as wrestling, meets so closely placed can sometimes be hard to deal with. But the Harvard wrestlers, led by third-year coach Jay Weiss, have shown poise and resilience all year and hope to be more than ready to compete at all of their matches.
With Easterns right around the corner, this weekend could serve as a springboard for a program that has begun to reclaim a national presence.
The Crimson hopes to better last season's sixth-place finish at the tournament, its best showing since 1947, and to improve on its school-record three NCAA qualifiers.