Harvard's grapplers surprised everybody including themselves Saturday when they whipped UMass, 24-18, and battled Hofstra to a reasonable 25-13 loss at UMass's Boyden Gym.
In the opening match, Hofstra, a Long Island bastion of matmen, got off to a slow start. Harvard's Dan Blakinger grabbed a quick win at 118 lbs. by contorting his opponent for over ten points.
Mitchell Silvermen at 126 lbs. and Bill Haley at 134 lbs. tried to follow captain Blakinger's act, but Hofstra's matmen refused to comply, winning, 8-4 and 10-5.
A combination of Hofstra complacency and a superior performance by George Baker at 142 lbs. netted the Crimson three points. Baker topped Hiddyaka Sino, who was second in the AAU nationals last year.
Crimson coach Johnny Lee called Baker's win the highlight of the match.
Mike Bee won his match at 150 lbs. for Harvard, but Lee forfeited the 158 lbs. spot to save Jim Gebhart for the second match against UMass. Cris Kimball (167 lbs.), Jim Strathmeyer (177 lbs.), and Bruce Johnson (190 lbs.) all went down to defeat, sealing the match for Hofstra.
Hofstra's nationally ranked heavyweight rubbed it in with a pin against Kip Smith, to the surprise of no one.
Overall, the Crimson performed admirably against a team destined for national prominence. "It well could have been 19-16 if Gebhard had been able to wrestle," Lee said. "Its an especially good show because Hofstra is better than any team in the Ivy League."
In its second match, Harvard dispensed with the Minutemen in true Hofstra fashion. Blakinger dismembered his opponent, keeping alive his seven-match unbeaten streak.
Milton Yasunga got off to a 4-0 lead, but lost, 6-5, to keep the UMass fans awake.
Carl Biello looked like he would manhandle his Minuteman but he sustained a neck injury in the second period.
"We don't know the extent of the injury just yet, but he would have beaten his opponent without the injury," Lee said.
Baker and Dee came through with their second victories of the day, and Gebhart his first, to give the grapplers an insurmountable lead. Strathmeyer pinned his man to complete the romp.
Although Johnson and heavyweight Carl Culig lost, Lee still called the 1-1 day the best performance of the season. "The guys did a great job," Lee said. "I think we're going to give the Ivies a real tough time when we come back from vacation."