With the score 15-13 in the Lions favor, the winner of the heavyweight bout in Harvard wrestling’s (8-5, 6-4 EIWA) match against Columbia (6-8, 3-5) would earn his team the dual-meet win at the Crimson’s final home match.
Heavyweight freshman Nick Gajdzik took the mat to battle it out against Lions’ senior Chris Manna. Heading into the second period, neither wrestler tallied a single point. The score remained 0-0 after Gajdzik held Manna pointless for the duration of the second period. In the final frame, the Harvard rookie registered a point after an escape and eventually secured a 2-0 decision, bringing the final score to 16-15 for a Crimson victory.
“[Nick] likes the spotlight, he likes the pressure, and it’s especially rare to see that in a freshman,” co-captain Walter Peppelman said. “Nick had a phenomenal match against a tough competitor.”
Harvard and Columbia battled back and forth throughout the dual meet, with the score never staying in either team’s favor for long.
In usual fashion, freshman Jeffrey Ott started off the match in the 125 pound weight class. Ott wrestled a high-scoring bout against the Lions’ Penn Gottfried but eventually topped the junior with a 14-7 decision to snag the first win for the Crimson.
“With Jeff Ott at 125, I thought he wrestled really well,” Peppelman said. “He attacked from start to finish. He wasn’t able to get the major decision, but he wrestled really hard, and I was proud of him.”
Columbia answered with a 3-2 win at 133, as junior Matt Bystol came back from a 1-0 deficit to Harvard senior Shay Warren in the final period to tie the total score.
The Crimson struck back when co-captain Steven Keith registered his 102nd career win after securing a 7-0 decision, shutting out Alec Mooradian of the Lions.
“We rattled off another win at 141 with Steven,” Peppelman said. “Steven was just shy of a major decision, and that was a big win for him.”
Freshman Todd Preston took to the mat against No. 5 Steve Santos in the 149 weight class. Preston held Santos 0-0 until Columbia’s senior managed an escape at the beginning of the second period. Santos ended up holding the 1-0 lead to snag the win and tie up the score.
“At 149, Todd Preston, one of our freshmen, he just keeps getting better,” Peppelman said. “He wrestled the No. 5 guy in the country…. I’m really proud of Todd and how far he has come.”
At 157, Peppelman wrestled his last dual-meet match against Jake O’Hara and topped him in a 3-0 decision. Many Lions on the bench contested the call, causing the official to dock one team-point from Columbia, bringing the score to 9-5 with Harvard in the lead.
The Lions responded with a 10-1 major decision in the 165 pound weight class, tying up the match once again. Columbia grabbed the lead after junior Cameron Croy fell to Stephen West when the Lions’ senior escaped Croy early on in the final frame. West held off the Harvard junior to secure the 4-3 decision.
“Cameron Croy lost a tough match to a really good competitor,” Peppelman said. “He almost had him at the end, but he wrestled hard during the whole match.”
Columbia extended its lead after registering a third consecutive win at 184, but sophomore James Fox brought the Crimson back into the match after coming out of the gates strong and dominating his opponent with an 11-2 major decision.