For the Harvard men’s wrestling team (3-8, 1-7 EIWA), this weekend at the EIWA Championships at Lehigh could be summed up in one word: redemption.
Senior David Ng went 4-2 in the tournament, capturing fifth place in the heavyweight bracket, securing the final guaranteed spot in his weight class for the NCAA Championships on March 19th in St. Louis, Mo.
Ng defeated Columbia’s Garrett Ryan 2-0 in the fifth place match, just one day after losing to Ryan on Friday in the quarterfinal of the championship bracket by a score of 3-1. The Massapequa, N.Y. native, who entered the tournament as the fifth seed in the 285 division, won his first match of the tournament by blanking Army’s David Farr.
In wrestlebacks, Ng caught fire and first edged Brown’s Sebastien Levin 10-2 for his final match on Friday. On Saturday, the senior went on to defeat Princeton's Ray O’Donnell, who was the tournament’s eighth seed, by pin at 2:16.
Following two consecutive victories, Ng just missed a spot in the third place match after a loss to No. 17 Doug Vollaro of Lehigh. Coming off a tie in regulation periods, Vollaro took the match in the first tiebreaker, 3-1.
A loss by Ryan on the other side of the wrestlebacks bracket ensured a rematch of the longtime rivals. This was the fourth meeting of the two in just this season alone, having split the first two regular season contests, both by a score of 3-1.
“I wrestled him when I was sophomore and he was a junior in high school in junior nationals in Las Vegas,” Ng said. “He actually beat me up pretty good.”
The senior responded by defeating Ryan after leading for most of the match by just one point. The victory clinched the fifth and final bid for the NCAA Championships in the heavyweight division.
“[Ryan's] tough,” Ng said. “He’s quick on his feet, he’s big and strong, and it’s very hard to get him moving and get to his legs.”
The fifth place finish was the best of Ng’s career at the EIWA Championships, following eighth and seventh place finishes in his sophomore and junior years, respectively.
While Ng provided a bright spot for the Crimson this weekend, the rest of the team struggled to fight through injuries that have plagued Harvard all season long.
Junior co-captain Todd Preston, who entered the tournament as the defending EIWA champion and number one seed at the 141 division, suffered a broken wrist in just his second match of the weekend.
The junior had little trouble defeating Kyle Brady of Sacred Heart in the first round, with a final score of 13-3. In his second round matchup against Drexel’s David Pearce, Preston had to forfeit the match on injury default, ending his tournament run.
The Crimson was already without its captain and top ranked wrestler in James Fox, who suffered a concussion prior to this weekend’s matches. Fox, who has qualified for the NCAA Championships in each of his previous three years as a Harvard wrestler, was ranked ninth in the country at the 197 weight class before being sidelined for the weekend.
“It was a difficult tournament going into it knowing we didn’t have James,” Crimson coach Jay Weiss said. “[Todd Preston’s injury] happened early in the tournament, and when you have your leaders go down like that…it’s a lesson to all the guys that you’re never guaranteed next year, or tomorrow.”
In other weight classes, junior Devon Gobbo pulled off a first round upset at 165 with a pin at 2:24 of seventh seeded Zack Zupan of Binghamton. Gobbo lost in the second round of wrestlebacks to eighth seeded Tyrel White of Columbia.
At 174, number seven seed freshman Josef Johnson, who finished the season with a 16-13 record, pinned Hofstra’s Frank Affronti at 6:13 in the opening round of the tournament. Johnson failed to advance any further, losing two straight matches following the victory.
Harvard, with 24 team points, finished the tournament in 14th place as they watched Ivy League rival Cornell take home the team championship with 176 points on the weekend.
“Some of our guys had to go through this tournament for the first time to see what it’s like,” Weiss said. “This is what we train for, everything we do is for these few days in March. We’ve got some work to do when we get back.”
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Wrestling's Ng Finishes Season at the NCAA ChampionshipsSenior heavyweight David Ng was the lone member of the Crimson to qualify for the national tournament, after capturing 5th place at the EIWA conference championships two weeks prior.
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