In its first tournament of the season, the No. 23 Harvard wrestling team took on competition from throughout the Northeast on Sunday at the Binghamton Open in Binghamton, N.Y. The Crimson’s day was highlighted by a second-place finish from freshman Jimmy Ott, while co-captain Steven Keith and junior Cameron Croy finished fifth in their respective weight classes.
Although Harvard did not experience as much overall success as it did in last season’s trip to Binghamton, when five Crimson wrestlers earned top-four finishes, the tournament provided the team with a chance to get back on the mat against regional competition.
“The first tournament is always exciting, but we realize that we have a long season, and we want to gauge where we’re at,” Harvard coach Jay Weiss said. “We had some ups and downs today, so I wasn’t too pleased with the overall performance. But I know that we’re going to get a lot better.”
In his first collegiate wrestling tournament, Ott did not fail to impress en route to his second-place finish. Wrestling at 125 pounds, Ott dominated his first tournament matches, securing four victories to only a single defeat.
Ott took his opening match by securing a fall at 4:35 and followed up the performance with a 16-0 shutout of Princeton freshman Max Rogers.
Ott went on to achieve two more victories, one by a second fall, to propel him into the finals.
Ott was ahead for most of the match and was seconds away from ending his first tournament with a title, but Cornell freshman Nahshon Garrett took advantage of a mishap to steal the match from Ott in the final seconds.
“[Ott] is a super kid, he trains hard, [and] he’s just a go-getter,” Weiss said. “He doesn’t really give anybody too much respect, which is awesome. He wrestled tremendously today…. But he’s a better wrestler because he lost than if he would have won. That mistake he made won’t creep up on him again.”
After achieving a third-place finish last year at Binghamton and placing eighth in the NCAA Championships, Keith wrestled in five matches and ended in fifth place this year at 141 pounds.
Keith won his first three matches on Sunday, decisively taking down opponents from Finger Lakes Wrestling Club and Penn State before winning a narrow, 6-5 struggle against Penn sophomore Charles Cobb.
But Keith was knocked out of the top bracket when he suffered a fall in the semifinals, and his tournament ended when he was pinned again in the following match.
Co-captain Walter Peppelman, who sits seventh in Harvard history with 92 wins and, along with Keith, was an All-American last year, came out strong in his first two matches, winning the first, 16-0, and achieving a fall in the second at 1:23.
But Peppelman’s tournament ended on a sour note with two close losses.
“[Keith and Peppelman’s] goals are to win national championships,” Weiss said. “They just had tough days, quite honestly…. They’re already at [the top] level, so now it’s just making adjustments. We’re hoping to see them in the finals, so to not see them [there] was hard. But they’ll use [the early losses] to their advantage.”
After taking advantage of an opponent forfeiting due to injury, Croy secured a tight, 3-2 victory against a Sacred Heart opponent before falling to Ivy League rival Craig Scott from Cornell.