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The Harvard wrestling team was king of the hill. Only falling to powerful Cornell and sailing on a five-match winning streak last weekend, the Crimson was the cream of the crop, top of the heap.
But "those little town blues" iced over the Crimson last weekend, as Brown creamed Harvard, 25-11, Columbia topped the Crimson, 19-17, and Central Connecticut reigned.
The Crimson headed to Providence Friday to take on the Bears and Central Connecticut with high spirits and confidence. Harvard had already spanked Princeton, and in turn, Princeton had beaten Columbia. Logically, Harvard should have beaten Columbia. It should have been an open and shut match. No one can understand where things fell apart.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened," said Harvard Assistant Coach Paul Alderman, "They had a really good week of practice. They looked as good as I've seen them all year."
Maybe the practice was too good?
"For this past week we've been going two-a-day on Monday and Wednesday and maybe we weren't used to that," Sam Cole said, "But I don't know, I really can't say."
Whatever the reason, the Crimson got eaten by the Bears in the first match.
At 118-lbs., Nick Cianciola started the match off right, taking Pat Tocci, 5-3, but Harvard couldn't carry the intensity to the end.
Tim Kierstead sported another tie at 158-lbs., and 167-lbs. Fred Jenkins narrowed the Crimson point deficit by three, spilling Brian Aylward on the mat, 11-5.
Cole achieved a personal victory, and three points for the team at 134-lbs. in the high point of the match. Suffering from a rib injury, Cole had lost to Matt Casto last year. This year with a leg infection, he lost to Casto, the tournament MVP, at the Coast Guard Tournament.
But, Casto found out it wasn't so easy to win when Cole was healthy. Cole handled Casto, 10-4.
But it takes a little more than genial health for Cole to go on to obliterate his Central Connecticut opponent, 13-4.
"It seems that overall, my moves seem to be clicking much better now," Cole said. "It's a blending of defense and offense. I was concentrating on my offense before and now I'm working both in."
"Sam Cole is going through a transitional period in his wrestling," Alderman said, "in which he's starting to wrestle at a higher level. The transition is difficult, so he's actually wrestling better than people think he is."
The Crimson as a team couldn't make the same claim against Central Connecticut.
"We were really down and we had to wrestle CCSU right after," Kierstead said. "We were just out of that match."
The Crimson hoped it could redeem itself at Columbia the next day. But Harvard couldn't peel off that down mood, and Columbia took advantage of it.
"It looked like the domino effect," Kierstead said. "Nick Cianciola got major decisioned, which doesn't happen much, and I think we got the feeling we were flat again."
But Kierstead improved on his performance from last match, not satisfied with a tie.
"I felt like I was moving better," Kierstead said. "I rode him pretty well and turned him in the second period. The back points are good. They take some of the pressure off of you."
At least this match was close. The Crimson stayed neck-and-neck with Columbia all match and was clinging to a 17-16 lead right before the heavyweight match. Dwight Cooper fell under the weight of the pressure, and the Crimson fell, 19-17.
"It was pretty much a bummer," Cianciola said. "We really didn't expect to lose at all, and halfway through the match it looked like we were in trouble. Columbia was all pumped up and they basically kicked our asses with their mental attitude. We just sat around like a bunch of lazy bums."
The Crimson hopes to make a brand new start of it at Yale Saturday.
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