Wrestling's O'Connor Wins at ESU

Freshmen Jantzen and Olsen earn 3rd-place finishes at first collegiate tournament

Jessica S. Lin

Sophomore J.P. O’Connor, shown here in earlier action, showed why he is ranked third in the nation at 149 lb., going 6-0 and finishing first at the East Stroudsburg Open at Koehler Fieldhouse to start his season.

Nothing could dampen the spirit of the Harvard wrestling team, even when its first tournament of the season turned out to be a far too crowded affair.

The Crimson, which ended a historic season last year with three wrestlers qualifying as All-Americans and with its highest ever point total at the year-end national tournament, launched its season at the East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Open with a mixed group of battle-tested veterans and newly recruited talents.

On a Saturday morning at Koehler Fieldhouse, sophomore J.P. O’Connor, the only Harvard freshman to earn All-American honors in program history, started right where he left off.

Ranked third in the nation at 149 lb., O’Connor went 6-0 and finished first in a tournament that had to be cut short because of the large number of participants.

Wrestlebacks were canceled, meaning that those who were knocked out before the semifinals had no chance to compete in a consolation bracket.

Although junior co-captain Louis Caputo and junior Andrew Flanagan, two of the Crimson’s best wrestlers, sat out due to injuries, Harvard had a chance to showcase two of its newest recruits in freshmen Corey Jantzen and Andy Olsen, who finished third at 174 and 141, respectively.

Jantzen had three major decisions, his only loss on the day coming from Penn State’s Frank Molinaro in the semifinals.

Olsen, also 5-1, nabbed third place in his weight class after taking a match by fall over Edward Ruth of Iron Eagle Wrestling Club.

Overall, seven Crimson freshmen made their collegiate debuts, and 17 wrestlers in total represented Harvard at the tournament.

“Our freshmen are great—they’re really open to learning and coaching,” O’Connor said. “They had a chance to gain confidence at this tournament, though it was unfortunate that they weren’t able to get more matches and experience. But when they wrestled, they showed how tough they are.”

Seniors Matt Button (165 lb.) and Bobby Latessa (157 lb.) went 3-1 but were likewise denied a chance to place after the cancellation of wrestlebacks. Sophomore Frankie Colletta (174 lb.) also finished 3-1.

“Everyone wrestled at where we need them to be right now,” head coach Jay Weiss said. “We treat this as a stepping stone, and now we have to come up with a plan for [the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in two weeks]. But I was extremely pleased overall.”

“There’s always room for improvement,” said O’Connor, who placed fourth at the ESU Open last year. “I’ll look at the tapes and go from there.”

Harvard has the potential to put up its winningest season yet, following an already historic season last year.

In addition to Caputo and O’Connor, the two returning All-Americans on the team, the Crimson has a lot more depth in its starting lineup this season than last.

Freshmen Shay Warren and Dan Kelly will bolster the starting spot at 125 lb., and five wrestlers, including Olsen, are set to compete at 174 lb.

Co-captain Robbie Preston, who is taking the semester off, will return to the team in the spring.

“This is a very special group with a lot of chemistry,” Weiss said. “It’s going to be a fun year as long as we stay away from injuries, which is always tough. But we’re on the right track.”

—Staff writer Tony D. Qian can be reached at