With the Harvard wrestling team just breaking into the Top 25 last week, the Crimson was met with an immediate test when it travelled to Ithaca to take on No. 5 Cornell.
But for junior co-captain Walter Peppelman, the pressure makes the match more exciting.
"I like wrestling in the spotlight, the big matches, and the national tournaments," Peppelman said. "I used this match as practice for that, because I like wrestling when the pressure is on and it really matters."
In what was otherwise a disappointing weekend for Harvard, Peppelman shined against Big Red sophomore Ryan Dunphy, winning an 8-0 major decision.
Peppelman started the bout strongly, taking down Dunphy with an inside trip in the first 10 seconds. Peppelman rode the sophomore out for the remainder of the first period, notching 2:50 of riding time as he ended the first period ahead, 2-0.
Even in light of his early dominance, Peppelman did not slow down. After choosing down for the second period, the Harrisburg, Pa. native escaped from Dunphy over a minute into the period and then recorded a takedown to extend his lead to 5-0.
And after earning another takedown in the third and gaining a point for his 4:21 riding time, Peppelman earned his second major decision of the season, defeating Dunphy, 8-0.
Peppelman was one of two Crimson wrestlers to earn a win on the weekend. But for Peppelman, leadership is nothing new. The junior is currently in his second season as a team co-captain.
"I’ve worked with two of my coaches and my co-captain last season, and I learned a lot [from last year’s experiences]," Peppelman said.
Freshman Ryan Osleeb, who registered a win in his first dual-season meet in Ithaca, believes Peppelman has had a strong influence on the beginning of his college career.
"He is an established leader and someone that I could look to during my freshman year to see how to work at that level," Osleeb said. "He’s an incredibly hard worker and a great overall person."
Osleeb also credited Peppelman with helping the team prepare mentally as well as physically.
"He is always trying to relax the team and get them in the right direction, whether it’s the small things or keeping everyone focused in a tournament," the freshman said.
But the Leverett House resident was also quick to credit his teammates’ work ethic for helping the team succeed.
"On our team, we don’t have just one or two leaders," Peppelman said. "I have a team of 20 leaders. So my job as captain is to bring the best out of everyone. But I’m blessed to be at Harvard, and it’s really easy because I am surrounded by so many great leaders."