Until this past Friday night, it had been two seasons since Harvard wrestling registered a dual meet win against Ivy League foe Columbia. With a winning streak, and a chance at redemption on the line, the Crimson brought the heat into the Lions’ den to notch the victory, 22-14.
“To go out and beat Columbia this week, especially following our big win against Bucknell last week, it was validation that we really are turning the corner as a team,” sophomore Josef Johnson said. “There’s really high energy right now, and I think the biggest takeaway for us was that it was another great team win.”
With a forfeit at the 125 position in previous weeks due to injury, the Crimson saw a major change as freshman Nolan Hellickson took to the mat to start out the meet.
“Getting Nolan back at 125 was big, and he started the fire from the get go,” Harvard coach Jay Weiss said. “Following his win there, I think our guys were really able to feed off each other’s energy, and that was exciting to watch.”
Following Hellickson’s decisive 18-0 technical fall victory, senior captain Todd Preston, who is ranked ninth in the nation in the 141 division, kept the momentum going for the Crimson.
“With Todd I think we saw a side of him we hadn’t seen in a while,” Johnson said. “He honestly got really nasty this match, and we saw a ferocity that we hadn’t seen out of him in a little bit so it was really nice to see him get after it.”
While these early victories put Harvard in solid position to notch the win, it was Johnson’s bout at 173 that stole the day. The sophomore managed to wrestle through overtime ticks to outlast Zack Hernandez, 9-7.
“That was a triple overtime, exciting match and he came out on top,” Weiss said. “So that’s got to help his confidence. Hernandez has beaten us in that weight class the past two years, and to qualify for the NCAA tournament, he’d knocked two of our guys out. So that was a really nice win for the team and for Josef.”
Another key contributor for the Crimson’s effort was junior Jeffrey Ott. Ott held on in a tight match to get a decision for the team, with a final score of 3-0.
“With Jeff at 133, he’d already lost to that guy a couple times already,” Weiss said. “So I love it when we have guys go out and avenge earlier losses. He looked strong and did a really good job out there.”
Senior Devon Gobbo also found a similar result against a previous competitor, beating Columbia’s Tyrel White 9-3.
“That guy (White) pinned us last year, so it was not only an intense loss but it was a pin,” Weiss said. “So Devon was wrestling one of their top guys and we almost got a major out of it, which is was awesome. I wasn’t surprised by it because I know the level of wrestling that Devon is capable of, but that was a big one for us as a team.”
Senior Josh Popple also put points on the board for the Crimson, returning from injury to earn a major decision against Columbia’s Troy Hembury, 9-0.
“When Josh went out there, we didn’t need those points anymore for the win, but he still wrestled to win,” Weiss said. “It just shows you how people are feeding off each other and scoring points for the team. We have a really special group and I’m excited to see over the next couple weeks how they finish the season.”
–Staff writer Jillian Dukes can be reached at email@example.com.
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