The Harvard wrestling team opened its dual-meet season Saturday morning at the Malkin Athletic Center with a win over Rider, 24-17. The Crimson (1-0, 0-0 EIWA) took five of ten matches from the Broncs (4-2, 0-0 CAA) to secure the victory.
Freshman 125-pounder Jeffrey Ott pulled Harvard ahead just over a minute into the eighth match of the meet with a fall over Rider freshman Patrick Skinner. The win came on the heels of a 2-1 overtime victory by sophomore heavyweight David Ng.
"That was just a gutsy match," said Crimson coach Jay Weiss of the performance from Ng, who prevented an escape in the second overtime period to hang on for the win.
In the next match, Ott opened strong to swing the meet in Harvard's favor.
"[Ott] is just a goer. He can just put guys on their backs at will," Weiss said. "He went out there and took charge right away."
The rookie from Chelmsford, Mass. was energized by Ng's win and home state support.
"I knew if I won with Steven [Keith] and Ryan [Osleeb] coming behind me that we'd be in good shape," Ott said. "I had a bunch of people from Massachusetts coming out to support me, so it was great in my first home match to get the pin and basically put the match away."
The Broncs struck first as Rider freshman Curt Delia recorded a technical fall over Crimson sophomore Alexis Wagener in the 149-lb. division. But No. 9 co-captain Walter Peppelman responded for Harvard in the next match with a lightning-quick pin ten seconds into the 157-lb. grapple to record the fall over Broncs junior Patrick Sabatini and push the Crimson ahead, 6-5.
"That is pretty remarkable," Weiss said of Peppelman's ten-second pin. "That doesn't happen often in college. [Peppelman] likes to do that kind of stuff, so that was a lot of fun."
While Harvard keeps no official records about match length, Peppelman's match ranks among the quickest in Crimson history. Peppelman claims to have recorded a six-second pin earlier in his collegiate career.
After the fourth match, Harvard remained one point up on Rider. Broncs junior Ramon Santiago won a 7-4 decision over Crimson freshman Devon Gobbo in the 165-lb. division, but junior 174-pounder Cameron Croy put Harvard back on top, 9-8, with a 6-3 decision over junior James Brundage.
Rider won back-to-back decisions in the fifth and sixth matches to surge ahead, 14-9, as sophomore 184-pounder Clint Morrison defeated Crimson sophomore Josh Popple, 9-2, and unranked sophomore Donald McNeil surprised No. 20 James Fox, 8-2, in the 197-lb. division.
"Fox has still got some rust on because he hasn't competed all first semester. He didn't wrestle his best, but I know that was kind of his first time back," Weiss said. "I think he's going to just keep getting better and better."
Ng and Ott's back-to-back victories in the next two matches sealed the final lead change of the meet to give Harvard an 18-14 advantage with two matches left. Rider 133-pounder Jimmy Morris won a narrow 5-4 decision over Crimson sophomore Ryan Osleeb in the penultimate match to push the Broncs within a point of the lead, but a shorthanded Rider squad opted to forfeit the final match of the meet in the 141-lb. division to No. 10 Steven Keith.
For the first time, Harvard Athletics will offer live and on-demand online-streaming of wrestling for all five Crimson home meets this season. Saturday's installment featured color commentary from two-time wrestling All-American Dennis DeNuzio '98.
"It's really exciting. Our video department is doing an outstanding job," Weiss said. "I got emails from fans today saying it was really cool to watch us. We're just trying to get to the next level, to get people aware of what we're doing as a team."
--Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org