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Wrestling Warms Up In Tourney

When the Harvard wrestling team headed to the East Stroudsburg Invitational this Saturday, it wasn’t looking to come away with a first-place win in each weight class.

Instead, the young team was looking to stretch its legs and see what it is capable of in the coming season by getting a chance to grapple with different wrestlers under match conditions.

“It’s not nationals. East Stroudsburg is our way to get a look at guys,” Harvard coach Jay Weiss said. “You can’t see these things in practice.”

What they saw, according to sophomore Bode Ogunwole, was that they “have a lot of places we need to improve upon, and this tournament exposed it.”

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The Crimson heavyweights, Ogunwole and senior Jonas Corl, led the squad by taking third and fourth place. Both lost to wrestlers from No. 2 Lehigh, Tom Curl and tournament champion Paul Weibel, respectively.

The Crimson duo came head-to-head for the runners-up slots, but decided not to go through with the match since they face each other all the time in practice.

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“Bode and Jonas both wrestled well, but couldn’t catch up,” Weiss said.

Ogunwole defeated Jamie Nagel of Lock Haven. 11-4. and Penn State’s C.J. Wonsetter, 5-0, before losing to Curl. Prior to his bout with Weibel, Corl dominated Mike Spaid from Bloomburg University 10-2 and topped another Lock Haven wrestler, Tim Meyers, 7-2.

Senior Eddie Jones (184 lbs.) earned a fifth-place spot for Harvard. In the first match of the bracket he faced teammate Billy Colgan, winning 5-0. Jones put himself in contention to play for the third-place spot but dropped the match 5-2 to Dave Helfrich of Lehigh.

Another highlight for the Crimson was the performance by 125-lb. sophomore Robbie Preston. Though he earned the sixth-place spot, Preston could have potentially done even better had he not been pulled from the game.

“Robbie got a little banged up in the quarters,” Weiss said. But Preston’s performance convinced Weiss he “has the chance to knock some guys off in Vegas.”

Preston was strong in his early matches, winning 5-2 in his opening contest against Lock Haven’s Oberson Blanc. He held his next two competitors scoreless, defeating Gloucester County’s Vince Lipsey and George Mason’s Dusty McKinney 5-0 and 7-0, respectively.

While the other Crimson wrestlers did not meet as much success, Weiss is confident with more practice and experience the team will be even stronger.

“I’m not worried about who placed what,” Weiss said. “I was pleased looking at the young guys fighting hard.”

Sophomore Brent Kakesako (133 lbs.) didn’t win any matches, but was able to implement the stylistic changes he is making to his play. Similarly, sophomore Nate Picarsic (165 lbs.) was able to get his feet wet after returning from an injury.

Freshman Dominic DeNunzio (149 lbs.) and Jonathan Butler (174 lbs.) both won two matches on the day, and the team’s success will depend in large part on what the younger guys are able to contribute.

“I was impressed with what I saw,” Ogunwole said. “They are definitely ready for college and headed in the right direction.”

The team now has a week and a half to prepare for its first big match of the season, the Cliff Keane Invitational in Las Vegas.

“We’ll use this to get ready,” Weiss said. “I’m ready to see how they respond now.”

—Staff writer Megha Parekh can be reached at parekh@fas.harvard.edu.

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