The Harvard wrestling team competed at the Binghamton Open Sunday in Binghamton, N.Y., and five Crimson wrestlers displayed impressive form to place within the top four in their respective weight classes. Junior Paul Liguori and junior Steven Keith earned second and third place, respectively, and junior co-captain Walter Peppelman, junior Cameron Croy, and freshman James Fox each took fourth place.
“Overall, I felt we did well,” Harvard coach Jay Weiss said. “It was a good start, and obviously there are places where we can get better, but I think we saw a lot of good. I think, especially our younger guys, saw some competition that they’re not used to, and they’re going to continue to get better.”
Wrestling at 149 pounds and coming off of an injury he sustained during the spring semester, Liguori gave the Crimson its best finish of the weekend, reaching the finals and earning second place. In his four wins prior to the title bout, Liguori earned two falls over his opponents and racked up a combined total of 23-5.
Liguori started out the tournament strong with a pin of Sensation LaRocca from Edinboro at 2:19 and continued his dominance over Kenny Staub from Brown, taking the matchup, 11-1. In the next round, Liguori got even better, gaining another fall over Binghamton’s Ben Price at 1:40.
In the semifinals, Liguori swept past Zack Kulczycki 12-4, to earn a spot in the final. The Wantagh, N.Y., native put up a strong showing against Cornell’s Craig Eifert, but fell, 8-4. Despite the loss, Weiss was still impressed with Liguori’s performance.
“He really made a big jump over the summer and in the fall,” Weiss said. “He really made huge improvements, so I was anxious to get him on the mat ... He did a great job, and it paid off.”
Another wrestler that has made huge improvements during his Harvard wrestling career is Keith. Previously wrestling at 125 pounds, Keith stepped into his new role of competing at 133 pounds this season.
In the opening round, Keith defeated CJ Cobb of Penn, 5-2, and then followed up the victory with another win over Joe Gosinski of Hofstra, 8-5. Maintaining his momentum, Keith swept the board against Binghamton’s Dan Riggi in the next round, 6-0, before falling to Justis Flamio of NYAC, 4-2, in overtime.
In the wrestlebacks, Keith earned two more victories to secure third place at 133 pounds. Continuing his previous dominance, he defeated Jamie Franco of Hofstra, 7-0, and then took another commanding victory against CJ Cobb, 12-1, to earn a third-place finish.
Also wrestling at 133 pounds, freshman Ryan Osleeb won two of his bouts in his first collegiate wrestling tournament. Osleeb defeated Cornell’s Brett Hernandez-Henderson, 15-4, and Nassau’s Silas Murray, 12-3.
Coming into the tournament, Peppelman had a lot of attention on him after recently being ranked No. 5 in the nation and coming off of a 33-9 record during the 2010-11 season. With the pressure on his shoulders, the Harrisburg, Penn. native lived up to the expectations. He nabbed two solid victories, 6-2 and 12-0, before falling to Binghamton’s Justin Lister, 6-5, in the semifinals.
Peppelman rebounded to earn a fall at 0:37 against Rider’s Ramon Santiago and then a 9-7 victory over Edinboro’s Jonny Greisheimer. Peppelman now needs only 19 more wins to enter Harvard’s all-time top-10 list of most career victories.
Croy earned Harvard’s second fourth-place finish of the weekend. Croy dominated John McArdle of Middlesex County College, but then fell in a close 4-2 bout to Binghamton’s Nate Schiedel. Croy came back to win three more matches to secure fourth place, with Schiedel edging him out again, 5-3, in the third-place matchup.
Fox rounded out the Crimson’s top finishes, picking up fourth place at 197 lbs. Fox secured two wins over Rider’s Donald McNeil, 5-3, and Hofstra’s Tim Murphy, 11-5. In the semifinals, Fox lost against the eventual second-place finisher but went 1-1 in the wrestlebacks to end up in fourth place at his first collegiate tournament.
“It’s always good to find out where we are at this point in the season,” Weiss said. “It’s been a long preseason without any competition, so we’re always anxious going into the year.”
—Staff writer Steven T. A. Roach can be reached at email@example.com.