The 89th annual Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association tournament at Lehigh this weekend evoked mixed emotions for the Harvard wrestling team.
On Saturday, the Crimson enjoyed the sweet taste of victory as Co-Captain Frank Fronhofer captured the 150-pound title. In doing so, he earned a spot in the upcoming national championships, which will take place March 18-20 at Iowa State University.
Later in the day, Harvard experienced the agony of defeat when junior John Drosos did not receive a national championship berth despite an exceptional third place finish in the 177-pound division.
Many third-place winners from other weight classes--as well as a few fourth place finishers--somehow gained spots instead of Drosos, who proved he was more deserving.
Harvard's men of the mats placed ninth (out of 14) in the team portion of the tournament. Cornell seized first place by amassing 127.25 points.
For the Crimson, the team standings were not as significant as Fronhofer and Drosos's individual performances. Since Fronhofer found himself in the tournament's toughest weight class, one might think it would have been difficult for him to advance--let alone win--in a category which included three of the nation's top 150-pound wrestlers.
But as his teammate Drosos commented, "Frank was simply amazing. He tore right through that class."
The semifinal match was not that easy, Fronhofer needed to take it into sudden-death overtime to achieve a win.
But in his final match, the Kirkland senior jumped out to a quick and decisive 4-0 lead over the crowd favorite, Lehigh's Steve Cassidy, Fronhofer fought off a late rally by Cassidy and secured a momentous 5-3 victory.
"I'm pretty psyched [about the performance]," Fronhofer said.
Fronhofer's success spilled over into his teammates' play.
"When I saw him [perform so well], I felt pretty good," Drosos said. It showed me that nothing's impossible."
Energized by this realization, Drosos confidently wrestled to the semifinals in the competitive 177-pound class.
Although he dropped a decision to Cornell's Kyle Rackley, who eventually won the division, the determination of Drosos did not waver.
"I felt if I could get third, I could get to the Nationals," he said.
Drosos almost wrestled Brown's Chris Tokarski to a 1-1 standoff in regulation. But with three seconds remaining, Drosos finally achieved victory--a takedown--to win the decision 3-1. Unfortunately, that was not enough. The current format only promises national championships berths to the top two wrestlers from each weight class. As a third place finisher, Drosos's fate was determined--and unfairly ruined--through a vote by the tournament's coaches.
Drosos responded well to the decision--the best one can do under the circumstances.
He was very satisfied because he saved his best for last. "This was one of the best tournaments I have ever wrestled," he said. "It was a very deep weight class."
Even more indicative of his positive attitude, Drosos pointed to the importance of the team's performance to the future.
"I'm really happy with this weekend. We proved ourselves," Drosos said. "It gives us a lot to go on [for] next year."
The Easterns also marked the last collegiate appearance for Co-Captain Chris Sanzone, who courageously participated in the tournament despite a less than-healthy knee.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Drosos said.
Drosos is not alone.