In its first dual meet of the season, the Harvard wrestling team, despite solid efforts from all of its wrestlers, could not overcome the hometown Pride at Hofstra Arena in Hempstead, N.Y. on Sunday. Although the evening saw many close matches, the large majority of Crimson grapplers were unable to walk away with victories.
Juniors Robbie Preston and Bode Ogunwole both won their matches, but the Harvard wrestlers competing in the other weight classes all fell to their opponents—some in heartbreaking fashion—en route to a 33-12 loss that makes the Crimson’s record 0-1 to begin the season.
Harvard started the meet on an ominous note when it had to forfeit at 125 lbs. due to injuries, putting the team in a six-point hole from the outset.
Ninth-ranked Preston (133 lbs.) immediately evened the score at six and brought his season record to 12-2 when he pinned Hofstra’s Robbie Deibert in 2:40.
“I know none of us were happy with what happened over the weekend,” Preston said. “Everyone’s working hard to get us to the top 25. We lost a lot of close matches.”
Even though some matches were close, the end result was not. The Pride dominated the Crimson in the seven bouts following Preston’s win, taking every match on the way to building an insurmountable 33-6 lead.
Freshman Thomas Picarsic (141 lbs.) and sophomore Bobby Latessa (149 lbs.) could not sustain the momentum built by Preston, as Picarsic lost his match on a technical fall and Latessa lost an 8-4 decision.
Freshman Andrew Flanagan (157 lbs.) managed a hard-fought bout against 19th-ranked James Strouse, but could not pull off the upset, dropping a 3-2 decision and putting Harvard in a 17-6 hole.
Some questionable calls by the referees went against the Crimson and hampered the comeback effort.
“The referees weren’t giving us too many calls,” Preston said. “[Senior tri-captain] Mike Baria lost a heartbreaker [due in part to] a fleeing-the-mat call that I definitely didn’t agree with.”
Fleeing the mat is a one or two-point penalty assessed for trying to get out of bounds to avoid being scored upon. As a result, Baria (165 lbs.) lost a 4-1 decision to Chris Vondruska.
The score grew more lopsided when freshman Wesley Walker (174 lbs.), sophomores Joseph Bechtold (184 lbs.), and sophomore Jonathan Butler (197 lbs.) all dropped their matches.
Harvard, however, salvaged a win in its last bout when Ogunwole—ranked eighth in the nation among the heavyweights—pinned Jon Andriac in 3:44 and improved to 7-3 for the season.
“Although we didn’t get the results, everyone wrestled hard,” tri-captain Ogunwole said. “I think we’re close to where we want to be.”
“There’s always going to be calls that are bad,” added Ogunwole about the questionable calls. “We can’t use that as an excuse. You can’t put yourself in the position of letting the referees decide the match.”
The Crimson now has an extended rest before it resumes its season on Dec. 29-30 at the Midlands Tournament in Illinois.
—Staff writer Tony D. Qian can be reached at email@example.com.