Leading 17-16 against Army with two bouts remaining, the Harvard wrestling team sent its final two wrestlers to the mat.
First up was sophomore James Fox in the 197-pound weight class. Fox took on Bryce Barnes and downed him, 10-5, to give the Crimson a four-point lead. Heavyweight David Ng was up next, and with the victory on the line, he posted a 7-4 decision over Curtis Garner.
With Ng’s round done, Harvard (3-4, 1-3 EIWA) secured a 23-16 win over the Black Knights (5-6, 2-2) Sunday afternoon at Gillis Field House, its first EIWA victory.
“I thought we wrestled very well as a team in an away match against a very tough team,” Fox said. “We always know that Army’s going to be a tough match. They train incredibly hard. It’s very, very hard to break an Army kid, as they like to say, they’re really top-notch, and they always come at you. It’s what they’re trained to do.”
Freshman Jeffrey Ott began the Crimson’s bid for victory, competing against Hunter Wood in the 125-pound division. Ott finished his bout in dramatic fashion, pinning Wood down in 3:46 to launch Harvard into an early 6-0 lead.
Trying to break the 6-6 score after sophomore Ryan Osleeb lost his bout, the Crimson pitted co-captain Steven Keith, ranked 13th in the 141-pound category, against Army counterpart Tyler Rauenzahn. Keith scored four more bonus points with a major decision victory, shutting out Rauenzahn, 9-0, registering his 96th career victory.
Rookie Todd Preston won his match in the 149-pound bout, giving Harvard a 13-6 lead. The victory was the freshman’s third on the season.
“I thought Todd Preston wrestled a great match at 149,” coach Jay Weiss said. “He’s just starting to get into his own in his first semester, he’s really starting to wrestle well.”
Co-captain Walter Peppelman, the eighth-ranked wrestler in his weight class, registered a major decision against Brian Harvey, giving the Crimson a commanding nine-point lead.
“Walter also had a really tough match, and he was battling a couple of injuries,” Fox said. “He’s a really tough kid and got bonus points for us, while Steven Keith, who we expect big things from, was solid in his whole match, pulling off bonus points [as well]. Those little bonus points as the match goes on really helped us get the W’s tonight.”
But back-to-back losses in the 174-pound and 184-pound classes by junior Cameron Croy and sophomore Josh Popple, respectively, brought the Black Knights within one again, setting the stage for Fox and Ng to bring home the win for the Crimson.
“It was pretty close at the end, but we were able to get the W at the end,” Fox said. “Ng, our heavyweight, just did a great job at the end, coming back from behind and getting a big win to seal the deal.”
Coming into the match, Harvard was looking to break a two-match losing streak but maintained confidence despite the record.
“We were fully expecting to go in and win this match,” Fox said. “We knew this was a match we were fully capable of winning. Obviously, we knew they were going to be very tough, they don’t stop coming at you, they wrestle hard for seven minutes. So we had to wrestle solid, but we expected the win, we wrestled for the win and fortunately the results reflected that.”
With six out of 10 victories, Fox felt that the team pulled off all of the goals put forth in practice in the previous week.
“We have been very solid—all week, we focused on different positions, and we had specific goals going into the match,” Fox said. “Staying inside control, being tough on defense, certain breakdowns, good returns—we had these little goals that we wanted to wrestle in certain positions, and I think we did a good job of accomplishing those goals overall across the board, and those were the main reasons we were able to pull out the W today.”
The Crimson is now off for two weeks before taking on Penn and Princeton, a break that Weiss is hoping to use to boost the team’s competition level.
“I feel that we are going into a bit of an off-weekend, so I wanted to work on training pretty hard the last couple weeks,” Weiss said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we compete, and that kind of dictates how we do from here on out. So I thought the guys responded, I thought they wrestled well. [Army] threw a lot of things at our game plan. I thought they stuck to it, and it worked.”
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.