Sometimes you have to play the best to be the best.
Harvard wrestling hopes it can get there, but for now there is still a steep hill to climb. The Crimson (0-3) traveled to Binghamton, N.Y. yesterday for the Journeyman Sprawl & Brawl, a dual tournament featuring some of the country’s top teams. Harvard dropped its matches to No. 6 Penn State (5-0), Michigan State (3-0), and Eastern Michigan, and even though the squad vastly improved throughout the day, Crimson coach Jay Weiss said he saw room to get better.
“Obviously, we scheduled high, and we do that to get our guys to stretch themselves and see where they need to be,” Weiss said. “We said, ‘Let’s go after it, and hopefully you guys can wrestle hard.’ But that didn’t happen in the first match. We just didn’t wrestle well top to bottom.”
Harvard opened the day with a 45-0 loss to Penn State, but followed up with a pair of individual wins in a 31-10 loss to Michigan State, and nearly topped Eastern Michigan in a 24-22 defeat.
“I thought we did better as we went through,” Weiss said. “Some indivduals did well and some didn’t, and we’ll be able to go back and really focus on one of our biggest tournaments coming up in Vegas [in two weeks].”
EASTERN MICHIGAN 24, HARVARD 22
The Crimson nearly closed out its day with a victory, splitting its 10 bouts evenly with Eastern Michigan. But the Eagles won all five of their matches by bonus points, marking the difference in an otherwise even match.
“We lost by two points, and we could have found two points somewhere in that match,” Weiss said. “You’ve got to win those bouts and have everybody step up.”
The matchup started promisingly enough for Harvard, which enjoyed a 6-0 lead after a forfeit at 125 pounds. But sophomore Steven Keith, who moved up a weight class to 133, could not keep pace with his larger opponent, dropping a major decision, 14-6.
Harvard’s middle weights, traditionally a strength, proved dominant against the Eagles, as junior Corey Jantzen, junior co-captain Walter Peppelman, and sophomore Adam Hogue reeled off three straight victories to put the Crimson up, 18-8.
Jantzen in particular earned praise from his coach for recovering after a tough opening bout.
“The big thing for Corey is that he had to get better at bouncing back, and he sure did [yesterday],” Weiss said. “He didn’t feel great physically today, but he bounced back in his second and third matches, and to me that’s a huge milestone.”
Unfortunately for Harvard, the gutsy effort would not prove good enough. After the teams traded major decisions at 174 and 184—with rookie Cameron Croy getting his first collegiate dual win in the latter—the Eagles rode a fall at 197 and a forfeit at heavyweight to the narrow victory.
MICHIGAN STATE 31, HARVARD 10
In the middle of three matches with no break in between, the Crimson could have easily wilted against the Spartans. Instead, Harvard hung in against the Big 10 squad, notching a trio of victories to keep the bout close early on.