PROVIDENCE, R.I.—If there really is no place like home, then for the Harvard men’s wrestling team, Boston is a lot more familiar than Rhode Island.
The Crimson had a tough outing on Saturday afternoon at Brown, losing 21-14, but came back strong that evening against Boston University in a 23-14 victory.
The dual meet against BU was the last of Harvard’s season and the final dual meet of Crimson co-captains Dawid Rechul and Kevin El-Hayek’s careers, while Brown was their final Ivy meet.
The captains must now prepare the Crimson (6-7, 2-3 Ivy) for the upcoming EIWA championships on March 9-10 in Bethlehem, PA.
Harvard 23, BU 14
Harvard won six out of ten matches in a 23-14 victory over the Terriers in Boston.
Rechul dominated freshman Courtney Howard for a 10 point victory. El Hayek blanked freshman Joseph Rivera, 5-0.
No. 7 Jeese Jantzen, Pat O’Donnell, Reggie Lee and Jones were also winners. Jantzen (149 lbs.) held senior Jason Holder to the mat early, pinning him in 39 seconds. O’Donnell—ranked No. 20 nationally by themat.com in the 165-lbs. class—dominated sophomore Ben Schillens, 9-0. Lee won by one point over senioir Ali Abri, and Jones won a close match over senior Bryon Nelson.
“At Brown, we came out a little flat,” Rechul said. “The important difference showed at BU when we found ourselves in a similar predicament—namely, a team we were supposed to beat, but could easily lose to. We pulled off a nice victory when we could have easily packed it in.”
Harvard’s losses all served as learning experiences. Crimson freshmen Joe Turilli (141 lbs.), Jonas Corl (197 lbs.) and Greg Cook (125 lbs.) all lost tough matches to strong BU juniors. Junior Robbie Griffin (157 lbs.) lost to sophomore Leighton Brady after being taken down in overtime.
Harvard’s strong performance was particularly important in the last dual meet of the season as preparation for the upcoming EIWA Championships on March 9-10 in Bethlehem, PA.
“The bottom line is that we are the defending Eastern champions, and if we wrestle like we can, avoid distractions, and prepare well mentally, we will repeat,” El-Hayek said. “It’s an exciting time for us, and everyone will be ready to step up to the challenge.”
Rechul was equally confident.
“Our ability to bounce back like that after a disappointing loss shows the resiliency of this team and the bonds that we have formed,” Rechul said. “If we take this sense of team and show it on the mats at the EIWAs, I am certain we will reign victorious.”
Brown 21, Harvard 14
It was feast or famine for the Harvard wrestlers at Brown on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, six Harvard wrestlers starved as the Crimson fell to the Bears 21-14.
Harvard won four out of ten matches. O’Donnell, El-Hayek (133 lbs.), Jantzen and Griffin were all winners.
Only three out of the ten matches were within four points as Harvard both won big and lost big.
In the meet’s first and most exciting match, O’Donnell narrowly defeated junior Chris Ayers, 8-5, in a match in which he trailed early and late. Ayers was able to grab O’Donnell’s ankle effectively and score on two different occasions. Down 2-0 in the first and 5-3 in the third period, O’Donnell took Ayers down to tie the score and later held him in a cradle for five seconds, a three-point move that earned him the 8-5 victory.
“I never felt like I was in trouble, but I was never comfortable during the match either,” O’Donnell said.
In a 174-pound sophomore battle, Brown’s Adam Santee got the best of P.J. Jones, 6-2. Lee lost a hard-fought match to senior Karl Rittger, 2-0, at 184 lbs. Scoreless through most of the first and second periods, Rittger only managed a pair of escapes to seal the narrow win.
Harvard’s wrestlers had trouble scoring against Brown. In their six losses, no Harvard wrestler managed more than three points and two were shut-out.
The 15th-ranked Rechul, Harvard’s heavyweight, left hungry for more after a disappointing 10-2 loss to senior No. 13 Bronson Lingamfelter. The smaller Rechul was recovering from a sprained knee and had his leg taped from mid-thigh to mid-shin. Lingamfelter capitalized on Rechul’s injury by grabbing his leg and bringing him down.
“He noticed that I was hurt there and kept pouncing on it,” Rechul said. “I was recovering from a sprained knee, and that affected me more mentally than anything else. I was too reserved in my own offense and obviously suffered the consequences.”
Jantzen had no trouble with Brown senior Jason Mercado, nearly pinning him 30 seconds into the match and settling for a 12-0 whitewash. Griffin was similarly in control against Brown junior Jesse Savage in his 11-3 victory. El-Hayek, for his part, totally dominated Bears senior Rob Apgar, who despite hoisting Harvard’s captain way up in the air managed only one point in a 6-1 loss.
“Apgar was very good at defending my set-ups, but because he wasn’t doing much on his feet I never felt threatened during the match,” El-Hayek said. “I focused on maintaining motion and solid defense.”
All in all, the meet was disappointing.
“We did not wrestle with pride, and if anything needs to change before EIWAs, it’s that,” O’Donnell said. “It’s too late in the season to make any drastic changes in technique, or make great gains in conditioning. At this point in the season, we have to trust in our training and preparation and focus on having a champion’s attitude.”