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In its last tournament before the beginning of dual matchups, the Harvard wrestling team traveled to Lancaster, Pa., and brought home an individual gold at the Franklin and Marshall Open.
In the day-long tournament at the Alumni Sports and Fitness Center, the Crimson achieved four quarterfinal finishes, including a successful gold medal campaign by junior co-captain Josef Johnson (174 lbs.).
“Throughout my college career, I've struggled with consistency and that was my focus for the tournament,” Johnson said. “One of my coaches heavily emphasized wrestling a complete, focused seven-minute match without breaks in intensity. I definitely moved closer to wrestling really complete matches and I felt dominant.”
His third top-three finish this year, Johnson went 5-0 to claim his spot atop the podium. He started the match with two victories, one against Charles Layer of Rowan and the next against Terrell Forbes of Old Dominion. Johnson then claimed two consecutive shutouts with a 7-0 victory against Nunizo Cowley of Binghamton and a 4-0 win against Cody Hughes of Virginia Tech. The championship bout was hardly a competition as Johnson easily took down Garrett Peppelman of Virginia, 6-2.
Overall, Johnson’s championship tournament was won with three by decision, one pin, and a medical forfeit. With the victories, Johnson now boasts a season record of 18-5. The co-captain has placed at every single tournament in which he has appeared.
The Franklin and Marshall Open featured 350 wrestlers and nearly 30 programs from across the East Coast. It is the third top-three finish by Johnson, with others coming at the Jonathan Kaloust Open and the Keystone Classic.
“My offense from neutral was solid, but the biggest takeaway was my performance on top,” Johnson said. “Typically, I'm not very effective on top in critical matches, but today, I rode my opponents well and gained a lot of confidence in that position. I haven't walked out of a tournament feeling this good about my performance in a long time.”
Co-Captain Jeffrey Ott (133 lbs.) was another one of Harvard’s wrestlers to reach the semifinal stage. The senior charted three straight wins to reach the final four. The first came with a pin victory over Kenan Bottorf of Lock Haven. Two technical falls aided Ott as he took wins against both Joe Silwoski of Clarion and Theodore Powers of Ivy League rival Brown. With the three victories, Ott now holds nine on the season and a team-leading 63 in his career.
Three wins for co-captain Nicholas Gajdzik (285 lbs.) got him to the semifinal round. One was a decision victory against Gary Traub and another against Anthony Brownridge of Campbell in a victory by fall. Gajdzik improved his season total wins to 12.
Junior Logan Kirby (197 lbs.) also reached the quarterfinals of the tournament for the Crimson. Other members of the team posting multiple wins included junior Angus Cowell (285 lbs.), junior Kanon Dean (184 lbs.) and senior Colby Knight (149 lbs.). Overall, the team finished with 55 points.
“The team displayed a lot of grit,” Cowell said. “We just need to work on staying consistently aggressive throughout the match.”
The first of the dual matchup competitions will take place next Saturday at the Pitt Duals.
“In a lot of matches, outcomes came down to one or two critical positions, which we can fortunately focus on as we approach team competition,” Johnson said. “So a great part of the whole team competing is we'll have some refined emphasis points for practice as we head into team competition. We have a group that knows how to respond so I'm confident that we'll continue to build from here.”
—Staff writer Cade Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.
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