Three Harvard Wrestlers Make Nationals With Strong EIWA Performances
Co-captain Walter Peppelman took the mat Saturday to compete in the EIWA Championships final in the 157-pound weight class. After having early success in the tournament, Peppelman met his match in Joseph Napoli of Lehigh, who edged out the senior in a 5-0 decision to claim the title. The match was Peppelman’s second career final at the tournament.
Peppelman not only left the tournament with a second place finish, but the senior also got a nod for nationals later this month.
“I thought I had a pretty good weekend up until today, and then I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked to,” Peppelman said. “I ended up losing a tough one in the final, which stung a little bit, but I look forward to getting that win back in nationals.”
Although Harvard fell shy of its goal of being in the top five at the EIWA Championships this weekend in New Brunswick, N.J., the Crimson left the tournament with eight place-winners and a seventh place finish, its highest placing since 2007.
Harvard sent one other wrestler to the finals on Saturday—sophomore James Fox. At 197 lbs., Fox competed against Micah Burak, who has had four career EIWA finals appearances. The Crimson sophomore suffered two takedowns in the first and second periods and allowed Burak to rack up riding time in the final frame. Fox finished as the runner-up with Burak securing a 6-3 decision.
“I wrestled him before, a couple weeks ago, and lost to him,” Fox said. “I had a good idea of what he was going to do when I went into the match. My main goal was to stay out of tie-ups, keep moving my hands and feet…. Unfortunately I didn’t completely accomplish that, which is why I lost to him. I wrestled hard for all seven minutes, so I was proud of myself for that, and I had the game plan in my head, but the execution wasn’t fully there, so that was a little disappointing.”
Fox may have finished without a title, but the sophomore will be traveling to Des Moines, Iowa for the NCAA Championships along with Peppelman and co-captain Steven Keith.
“At the end of the day, I’m happy,” Fox said. “I qualified for nationals, and I was wrestling in the finals…. I look forward to wrestling at nationals, and if I see [Burak] again, hopefully it’ll be a different story.”
The next highest place-winner on the Harvard team was Keith, who secured a fourth-place finish at 141 and was the first Crimson qualifier for the national tournament.
Keith advanced to the semifinals after definitive decisions of 6-0 and 9-3 over wrestlers from Columbia and Lehigh, respectively. The senior was unable to secure a championship final appearance after losing a 6-3 decision to Penn’s CJ Cobb.
“At the end of the day, we have three national qualifiers,” Peppelman said. “Steven is qualifying for his fourth national tournament, which is something pretty rare in our history.”
The Crimson almost sent a fourth wrestler to the NCAA tournament in freshman Jeffrey Ott. At 125, Ott clinched fifth place, coming one win shy of qualifying for nationals. The freshman came out of the gates strong, forcing a technical fall in his opening match against Hunter Wood of Army, and earning an 18-3 decision.
Ott’s second match results did not swing in the freshman’s favor, when No. 4 David Terao of American pinned him for the win.
The freshman went on to secure two decisions in the consolation bracket, advancing him to the match for an appearance in the third place match and an automatic bid for the national tournament on Saturday. Ott lost a 4-3 decision, finishing the tournament in fifth-place after securing a 13-0 major decision over Wood.
“A lot of our guys placed,” Fox said. “I think we wrestled well as a team, especially at the beginning of the tournament, but we got to the second day, and I think we were worn out a little bit and not capitalizing on all the opportunities…. By the fourth or fifth match, you’re pretty banged up and sore, and it’s tough to perform at 100 percent.”
The other Harvard wrestlers who placed in the EIWA Championships include freshman Devon Gobbo, who placed seventh, and senior Shay Warren, junior Cameron Croy, and sophomore David Ng who all snagged eight place finishes.
“We’re just focusing on little things, small little tweaks,” Fox said. “Looking to attack the opposite side of the body that is not our strong side…little things like that will go a really long way. We have a week and a half to keep working hard.”
—Staff writer Kelley Guinn McArtor can be reached at email@example.com.