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The Harvard wrestling team ran the gamut of emotions this weekend, placing fifth at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) championships at Cornell.
Junior Jesse Jantzen (149 lbs.) remained untouchable, recording three falls and an 11-0 shutout en route to his second consecutive championship. Senior Pat O’Donnell lost a close semifinal match to the eventual 174-pound champion Brad Dillon of Lehigh and ultimately finished fourth, earning a wild-card bid to the NCAAs.
Senior Robbie Griffin (165 lbs.), junior PJ Jones (197 lbs.) and freshman Max Meltzer (133 lbs.) all placed fifth in strong performances.
Unfortunately, 125-pound senior David Germakian ended his career in a bizarre and disappointing fashion, losing by medical forfeit as a result of a cut on his head only a minute into his first match.
The top-seeded Jantzen’s path to the title was relatively smooth. He pinned his first two opponents and then recorded a technical fall (15-0) over Franklin and Marshall freshman Mike Parziale in the semifinals. Jantzen blanked Penn senior Jody Giuricich 11-0 to win the final.
“He just wrestled so well,” said Harvard coach Jay Weiss. “Everything for him is gearing for nationals. There wasn’t a close bout.”
With this performance, Jantzen earned the Fletcher award, given to the wrestler with the most career points in the EIWA tournament. After only two tournaments, Jantzen trailed the record-holder—Princeton’s 184-pound senior—by just three points. Jantzen is only the second junior to ever set the record.
With the EIWA title, Jantzen qualified for his third consecutive NCAA tournament, to be held in Kansas City, Missouri from March 20-22.
“I’m feeling healthy and strong,” Jantzen said. “It’s been my goal all season to be NCAA champion. As long as I stay healthy I have a good chance at winning.”
Harvard’s other NCAA qualifier, O’Donnell, took a more circuitous route to his tournament bid. He won his first two matches, before meeting top-seeded Brad Dillon in the semifinals. O’Donnell took Dillon to overtime, but luck was not with the Irishman.
“I came so close to scoring a few times,” O’Donnell said. “I just couldn’t get it done.”
Dillon took O’Donnell down in the extra period to earn the 3-1 victory. O’Donnell won his first consolation match, but then lost 7-0 in the consolation final to Cornell junior Tyler Baier, whom he had previously defeated, 4-2, in the second round.
Nonetheless, O’Donnell was pleased that he qualified for the tournament.
“I’m glad to have a chance to go to nationals,” O’Donnell said. “Except for the last match, I was pretty focused when I wrestled.”
Although Griffin did not qualify for NCAAs at 165 lbs., he performed beyond expectations, finishing fifth though only seeded eighth, and winning the final match of his career.
Meltzer showed tremendous promise with his fifth place finish at 133 pounds.
The most pleasant surprise, however, came in the 197-pound class. PJ Jones had been alternating with sophomore Eddie Jones (no relation) for the 184-pound spot. This week, it was PJ who moved up a weight class to 197 pounds. Nonetheless, he performed exceptionally well, going in unseeded and finishing fifth, as well as avenging a couple of defeats from earlier this season.
“[PJ’s performance] really meant a lot to me,” Weiss said. “All the matches he won weren’t close.”
The entire day was marred by the bizarre accident in Germakian’s opening 125-pound match, which would turn out to be the last of his career.
Five seconds into the match, the fourth-seeded Germakian went in to shoot at the same time as his opponent, Lehigh’s Terrence Clendonin. The two wrestlers collided, Clendonin’s cheek bone on Germakian’s forehead, and the collision opened a huge gash on Germakian’s skull.
The Harvard senior tried to continue, but he bled through the bandage and was forced to forfeit the match. Clendonin went on to finish third and qualify for NCAAs.
According to Weiss, Germakian had been wrestling exceptionally well going in to EIWAs and would have likely finished in the top three and qualified had he not been injured.
“My heart goes out to him,” Weiss said.
With Germakian out, Harvard did not earn any points at the 125-pound-class, which in part explains the Crimson’s fifth-place finish.
“We exceeded other people’s expectations, but we didn’t exceed our own,” O’Donnell said.
Both O’Donnell and Jantzen will now begin extensive preparation for the NCAA championships.
Although Jantzen had considered taking next year off to train for the Olympics, he indicated that he will likely still be around to lead the team next year.
“I’m not 100 percent sure, but I’m probably going to stay in school next year,” Jantzen said.
Jantzen will continue to train for the 2004 Olympics and try to make the team, but he is more optimistic about his chances in 2008.
—Staff writer David A. Weinfeld can be reached at email@example.com.
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