The Harvard varsity team, composed of an army of freshmen grapplers, begins a long, arduous season tomorrow against an emerging East Coast goliath.
The young Crimson tackles a confident Boston University squad, burgeoning with tenacious grapplers recruited by the BU Physical Education department over the last year. BU last week upset perennial Eastern champion Springfield, 27-8. "They're good and they're out to get us." Harvard coach John Lee said yesterday. "It's a helluva way to start off a season."
Harvard will lack the services of their 134-pound strongman, Carl Biello, who injured his shoulder in practice nine days ago. "A win in Biello's category is essential if we are to beat BU," Lee said, "Most of our matches look like toss-ups".
This year's schedule is the "toughest the school's over had," Lee said. The Crimson hosts California Poly Tech, the fourth-ranked team in the nation and six-time national champion, Dec. 14. The top two Eastern teams, Navy and Springfield hit the Harvard mats in January and February.
Crimson grapplers will be underdogs in out of 18 meets this year, Lee predicted, "Unfortunately we have one of the youngest teams in the East."
Harvard placed fourth in a hotly Ivy League race last year, behind Yale, Princeton and Penn. The upcoming race will be just as rough, Lee said.
A potent core of wrestlers in the 134, 142, 158, 190 and unlimited weight divisions graduated last year, leaving only five returning lettermen on the 1972 Crimson squad. Lee recruited heavily spring and toughened the Harvard lineup with 14 freshmen.
In two recent scrimmages. Lee noted the freshmen suffered "stage fright." "They didn't do as well as I expected," he said." And I know they are able to compete in top form. It's important that they stay confident."
Harvard's season outlook is far from dismal. Lee points to his "solid core" of wrestlers that consists of lettermen Dan Blakinger (118), Carl Biello (134), John Keough (177) and team captain Richie Starr (190).
Junior standout Blakinger should notch several wins in his lightweight division to pace the varsity. Last year, he placed third in the National AAU tourney and took sixth in that 1972 Eastern tournament. "He's improved over last year and will be a terror on the mats," Lee said.
Bill Haley, who placed second in New York State last year, vies with teammate Mitch Silverman, a four-time Connecticut champ for the varsity in the 126 pound division. Both are freshmen and can provide excellent coverage in lightweights.
Sophomore Carl Biello, who last year took fourth in the Eastern tourney, is Lee's favorite at 134. His recent shoulder injury could seriously diminish the force of the Crimson's attack on formidable opponent like BU. Untested freshmen Ty Richardson will replace Ciello until he returns in January.
Relatively inexperienced wrestlers start in the 142 and 150 divisions, but Lee said player "looks ready to take on the Best." Freshman George Baker fills the 142 slot and sophomore Mike Dee wrestles 150 lbs.
Harvard is hard pressed to replace last year's captain Collin at 158 untested sophomore Ray osbun should be a starter, but three freshmen will compete with him for this spot.
Sophomore John Keough, a defensive halfback on the football team, return's to the mats at either 167 or 177. Freshman Jim Strathmeyer and returning letterman Bruce Johnson add solid coverage in the tow divisions.