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On the training ground of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships this weekend at East Stroudsburg, Pa., Harvard showcased its best talent of the present and the future as two underclassmen wrestled their way into the finals and two seniors overcame temporary setbacks to finish third in their respective weight classes.
All four qualified for the national championships in two weeks. Each wrestler now has his sights set on the national title, for which this tournament had been a warm-up.
The EIWA sends the top four wrestlers in each weight class to the NCAA Championships with an additional seven wild card slots, making a total of 47 wrestlers who qualify from the conference.
“All four of us are all capable of coming home with the national championship,” said tri-captain Max Meltzer, who finished third at 141 lb. despite suffering a tough first-round upset. “Each of us knows it because we train with each other. We have to make sure we train smart in the next couple of weeks, and then the sky’s the limit.”
Sophomore Louis Caputo (184 lb.) and freshman J.P. O’Connor (149 lb.) both made it into the finals, with Caputo clinching his first conference title, leading Harvard to a sixth-place finish with 71 points.
Entering the tournament as the second seed, Caputo outwrestled Antonio Miranda of Navy in the final bout, 4-0, for his 27th victory of the season.
He gave the Crimson yet another EIWA champion—a streak that hasn’t been interrupted in 10 years.
“In the last couple of weeks, [Caputo] has been very aggressive going out there and taking it to his opponent, leaving [him] pretty much optionless,” Meltzer said.
“He’s at a point now that it feels like nobody is going to beat him once he steps on the mat,” he added.
“Louis wrestled better than I’ve ever seen,” tri-captain Robbie Preston said. “He kept guys down and got crucial turns. He turned it up at the right time.”
The second-seeded O’Connor, who lost a close match to No. 1 seed Jordan Leen of Cornell in the finals, wrestled well in his first EIWA appearance, garnering a win by fall and a major decision on his way to the championship match.
The 2-1 defeat to Leen was only O’Connor’s sixth loss in an impressive rookie season, in which he became the winningest freshman in the history of Harvard’s wrestling program.
Preston, the No. 3 seed, took third at 133 lb.
After winning the first three bouts, he came up against second-seeded Adam Frey of Cornell and lost in overtime, 9-7.
Losing by four going into the final period, Preston made a comeback to tie the match at seven going into the sudden victory round, where Frey won the match after scoring a takedown.
“I had a pretty tough weight class,” Preston said. “I thought I wrestled well in the semifinals, but I couldn’t pull it off in overtime.”
In the second day of the tournament, Preston pinned Joseph Baker of Navy and then defeated Seth Ciasulli of Lehigh, 5-4, to earn a third-place finish and a spot at Nationals.
“I’m disappointed with the result, but maybe I’ll see [Frey] in the Nationals,” said Preston, who had been recovering from a knee injury in the past couple of weeks.
“It’s not going to bother me,” Preston added of his injury. “We have one more tournament, and then I can rest it all I want.”
Meltzer, who lost in the first round to Kyle Borshoff of American in a huge upset, benefited from his wealth of experience as a senior and recovered to win all of his matches in the consolation bracket to ensure himself a chance at redemption at Nationals.
In the upset match, Meltzer was up 1-0 when he went for a takedown, and as he did so, Borshoff was able to wrap his arm around his back in such a way that he couldn’t get out of being pinned.
“Obviously, it was disappointing,” Meltzer said, “but after that my focus shifted to qualifying for the nationals. I just wanted to focus what lay ahead and not what had just occurred.”
Meltzer went on to face the same opponent that spoiled his chance at an EIWA title in the third-place bout. The match lasted 11 minutes before Meltzer finally persevered over Borshoff, 7-4, in the second tiebreaker.
Also competing for Harvard was junior Bobby Latessa, who finished sixth at 157 lb. after losing the fifth-place bout to Christian Snook of Army, freshman Frankie Colletta, who went 2-2 at 165 lb., and freshman Fred Rowsey, who went 1-2 at 174 lb.
Freshmen Ryan Fitzgerald (125 lb.) and Andrew Knapp (285 lb.), and junior Billy Colgan (197 lb.) were winless in the tournament.
—Staff writer Tony D. Qian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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