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In just two tournaments this season, the Harvard wrestling team has already proven its one-two combination to be deadly.
Co-captain Jesse Jantzen (149 lbs.) and sophomore Max Meltzer (141 lbs.) both won first place at the 37th East Stroudsburg Wrestling Open on Saturday, repeating their top-notch finishes from the Cortland Open Wrestling Tournament last weekend.
In total, five Crimson wrestlers placed in the top six of each weight class.
Sophomore Mike Baria (141 lbs.) placed sixth, losing his final bout of the weekend 3-0 to George Mason’s Rob Backer, who is ranked No. 10 at 149 lbs.
Freshman Jonathan Spiker lost a major decision 11-3 against Jeremy Hart of Penn State, knocking him to the sixth-place spot as well. Spiker was wrestling in the 165-lb. weight class, one above where the 157-pounder regularly wrestles.
Senior P.J. Jones (174 lbs.) placed fourth after losing a match 7-4 to Nittany Lions’ Court Thompson. Jones was also wrestling in a higher weight class than usual.
The tournament gave the Crimson wrestlers a chance to experiment in different weight classes and examine their own strengths and weaknesses.
In his first-place bout with No. 18 Frank Edgar of Clarion, Meltzer started the match off strongly. However, Meltzer made a mistake, allowing Edgar to score a one-point escape and a two-point take-down.
Edgar’s maneuver narrowed the Meltzer lead, but the sophomore toughed it out enough to earn a 6-4 decision.
Jantzen won first place by a larger margin, as he defeated Lock Haven’s Charlie Brenneman, 10-5.
Baria, who was wrestling in the same weight class as Meltzer, felt he could have done better if he had been more alert. When Baria asked the referee what match he was about to wrestle, the referee told him he was wrestling to place into the fifth-place bout, not the actual fifth-place match itself. The misunderstanding left Baria unprepared for what he was about to face.
“My mental focus was off because of what the referee said,” Baria said. “That’s not how you go into a match facing the No. 10 kid in the country.”
Though not completely satisfied, Baria did note that the knee surgery he underwent during the offseason has had no effect on his performance.
“I did a lot of good things, but [the match] showed me what I need to work on,” Baria said.
Although Baria wrestled at 141 lbs. this tournament, he will wrestle at 149 lbs. at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational Dec. 5-6. Depending on how he places there, the coaching staff will determine what class best suits him.
Meltzer agreed that this tournament helped the wrestlers prepare for Cliff Keen, which typically attracts the best wrestlers from around the country.
“It gave us a chance to tune up for the big tournament in two weeks,” Meltzer said. “We were able to notice our weaknesses and can improve. Everyone is wrestling hard and working hard.”
And it is not just the wrestlers that have been working hard. The injection of new assistant Jared Frayer has set a new work ethic for the program.
“The coaching staff did a great job,” Baria said. “We have to give them a lot of credit too.”
Frayer graduated in 2002 from Oklahoma, where he was a standout wrestler and even defeated Jantzen in the national tournament during his senior year.
One disappointment the Crimson faced was an injury to freshman Robbie Preston. Preston suffered a concussion during a match, but he is expected to return shortly. The incident carried particular weight because Preston wrestles at 125 lbs., a critical weight class left vacant by the graduation of David Germakian ’03.
The wrestlers next compete in the Cliff Keen tournament in two weeks, but will not open up their team schedule until January in the Lone Star Duels.
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