In its final matches before the NCAA tournament, the Harvard wrestling team finished eighth at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships this weekend in Princeton, N.J. Five individual Crimson wrestlers earned spots on the podium.
No. 6 junior co-captain Walter Peppelman finished second at the 157-pound weight class, while No. 12 junior Steven Keith placed third at the 133-pound class.
On the mat for the first time since Jan. 28 against Army, No. 5 co-captain Corey Jantzen won his first two matches before declaring a medical forfeit in his next two. Jantzen’s performance merited him sixth place in the 149’s.
At 184 pounds, sophomore Cameron Croy went three for five on the day, landing in sixth place, while freshman James Fox finished in seventh in the 197-pound weight class.
With their wins, Peppelman, Keith, and Jantzen qualified for the NCAA tournament on Mar. 15-17.
Giving the Crimson its top showing at the EIWA Championships, Peppelman had a better-than-projected performance. After earning an 11-0 major decision against Brian Tanen from Lehigh and a 4-0 victory over Jake O’Hara of Columbia, both of whom he beat earlier in the season, Peppelman faced the No. 2 seed of the tournament, American’s Ganbayar Sanjaa.
In a minor upset, Peppelman pinned Sanjaa before the end of the first round of the semifinals. With the victory, Peppelman advanced to the championship match against Kyle Dake from Cornell, a two-time national champion at the 141- and 149- weight classes.
The score stayed 0-0 throughout the first and most of the second round, but a late takedown by Dake put the Big Red grappler ahead, 2-0, heading into the last frame. Deciding to start on bottom, Dake escaped in the final period to take the 3-0 advantage in what ended up being the last point of the match.
Though Peppelman lost in the championship match, the junior still turned in a strong performance shortly before he wrestles on the national stage.
“It was a good opportunity to see what I need to fix so that hopefully I can pull one out in two weeks,” Peppelman said.
"Walter will most likely end up wrestling [Dake] again in the NCAAs, so I think it was a good warm-up match, a good dry run for when he needs to beat him at nationals,” Jantzen agreed. “Walter just had a great tournament."
Keith, after being upset, 3-1, by Navy’s Aaron Kalil in the semifinals, battled his way back to a quadruple-overtime thriller in the third-place match against Mason Beckman from Lehigh, the only wrestler who has pinned Keith all season.
[Kalil] out-scrambled him a little bit,” Peppelman said. “But I feel like he outwrestled his opponents on the whole.”
In regulation against Beckman, Keith was down, 2-0, going into the final minute of the match, but a crafty takedown knotted the score at two and sent the duo into overtime.
After three long overtimes with no scoring, Keith finally finagled a takedown in the fourth segment of extra minutes that notched him the third-place spot on the podium.