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Last weekend, Harvard wrestling capped winter break with a trip to Central Pennsylvania. The region is home to Bucknell, Franklin & Marshall, and the start of EIWA competition.
Friday brought disappointment, as the Crimson dropped a 21-10 affair against the Bison. But Harvard (3-1, 1-1 EIWA) rebounded in style by blasting the Diplomats, 30-6.
HARVARD 30, FRANKLIN & MARSHALL 6
This season, Harvard has the luxury of experience.
The roster sports eight seniors, more than any other age group. Five veterans each have weathered more than 50 matches. And seniors often compete in the five heaviest weight classes, which means that the Crimson can rely on experienced athletes in tight situations.
Last weekend at Franklin & Marshall, though, it was a pair of juniors that sparked Harvard. Nolan Hellickson and Ryan Friedman wrestled at 125 pounds and 133 pounds, respectively. By the time they were finished, the Crimson held an 8-0 lead.
The Diplomats would never get closer. Harvard dropped only two matches en route to a 30-6 victory.
Special credit went to Friedman and sophomore Hunter Ladnier, who won by technical falls. Competing at 149 pounds, Ladnier bulldozed his opponent in a 21-6 victory.
Credit also went to hapless Franklin & Marshall (1-9, 0-6), which has yet to grab a conference win. Since downing Virginia Military Institute on Dec. 2, the Diplomats have dropped eight straight matches, with an average margin of loss of 24 points.
The Crimson provided no solace. Two Harvard wrestlers picked up major decisions. At 184 pounds, co-captain Kanon Dean earned a 12-4 victory. And at 197 pounds, fellow senior Logan Kirby captured a 15-7 result.
Franklin & Marshall nabbed points in two weight classes—157 pounds and 285 pounds. In the former, Emmett LiCastri trumped over freshman Brock Wilson in an 8-3 decision. Harvard senior Angus Cowell provided more resistance in the heavyweight category. The veteran kept pace with Antonio Pelusi but suffered a 3-2 result.
After Wilson lost at 157 pounds, Harvard seniors ripped off four wins. Tyler Tarsi grabbed an 11-8 decision at 165 pounds, and Dean and Kirby won their major decisions.
In the middle of that sequence was a 3-2 victory for co-captain Josef Johnson. The senior entered Saturday tied for the most wins of any Crimson wrestler. Johnson faced a battle against Joshua Young, but the Harvard leader squeaked out the one-point victory.
Evidently, the Crimson would have won without the early victories by Hellickson and Friedman. But those matches built a relaxing cushion for Harvard.
Hellickson especially has started well this season. Boasting a 13-5 record, he sports the highest winning percentage on the season of any Harvard wrestler. That number stands at .571 for his career. Only Johnson and sophomore A.J. Jaffe rank higher.
BUCKNELL 21, HARVARD 10
On Friday, Bucknell and Harvard entered Davis Gym both searching for a first conference win. The difference was that the Bison had already completed—and lost—two EIWA contests. The Crimson, meanwhile, was opening league competition.
At the end of the evening, it was beleaguered Bucknell (2-9, 1-3) that emerged with the win. The Bison secured the victory when Chad Reese topped freshman Cliffton Wang in a 5-3 decision. Reese, who last competed in November, overcame an early 2-1 deficit.
That match capped a spirited comeback for Bucknell. After Crimson rookie Brock Wilson claimed a 3-0 decision at 157 pounds, the visitors held a 10-6 lead. But the Bison claimed the next five matches to carry the contest.
The evening featured high drama, with two bouts going to overtime. Bucknell won both. At 133 pounds, David Campbell topped junior Samuel Goldman, 3-1, in the first bonus frame. At 174 pounds, Nick Stephani went a frame-and-a-half before securing a 2-1 victory over co-captain Johnson.
The 184-pound matchup did not require overtime, but Drew Phipps and Dean still staged a battle. A 4-4 tie held with 20 seconds left, but Phipps earned a takedown and 6-5 win. Similarly, at 165 pounds, D.J. Hollingshead came up clutch for the Bison. He scored a late takedown to snatch a 9-6 finale.
Not all contests involved such excitement. No. 14 Tyler Smith (141 pounds) furthered a spotless dual record with an 8-2 decision over Crimson sophomore A.J. Jaffe. Further, the match began and ended with low-stress affairs. At 125 pounds, Hellickson picked up early points for Harvard with a 6-0 win. And at 285 pounds, Brandon Stokes limited Cowell in a 4-1 decision.
Between those poles, though, the two squads went back and forth. With the final result, Bucknell denied the Crimson a perfect start to conference play.
—Staff writer Sam Danello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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