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Energy was high in Malkin Athletic Center this past weekend, as Harvard wrestling (3-5) contested its final two home duals of the season, dropping both against Princeton and Penn. The squad earned a few hardfought individual wins and gave a heartfelt sendoff to its seven seniors in front of a supportive audience of students, friends, and family.
On Saturday, the Crimson fell to a very talented Princeton squad 16-20. Junior Diego Sotelo, sophomore Jack Crook, and senior Michael Jaffe each won close matches, with Crook’s coming against a ranked opponent. Seniors Phillip Conigliaro and Joshua Kim also won their individual matches, but it was not enough to claim the team victory. The match was decided in the final bout of the day in the 157 lb weight class, when sophomore Jimmy Harrington fell to Princeton’s Rocco Camillaci.
Jaffe, whose older brother A.J. graduated in 2022, was elated to get a win in front of the energetic home crowd.
“The past two seasons I have been dealing with a lot of injuries. So being able to come back and wrestle one last time in front of the home crowd in front of my friends and family, it was just such a great experience. I'm always proud to wear the ‘H,’ and to be able to wear the ‘H’ one last time at home was a really special moment for me," Jaffe said.
On Sunday, the Crimson faced the Penn Quakers in what would be its final home dual of the year. Prior to the match, the squad honored its senior class, made up of seven wrestlers: Conigliaro, Kim, Jaffe, Peter Ferraro, Nick Marcenelle, Matt Smith, and Leo Tarantino. The final score of the match was 6-34 in favor of the Quakers.
“I'm a local guy, from the Boston area, so I grew up going to the Harvard matches. And then, over the past five years, I've been able to compete on the mat. You know, it's kind of the end of an era where next year I'll be back in the stands,” said Conigliaro, reflecting on his long relationship with Harvard wrestling.
The senior has eighteen wins on the year, including his win on Sunday against Penn’s Nick Incontrera. Incontrera was ranked No. 6 in the nation in the 174 lb weight class; with the win, Conigliaro moved up to the No. 7 spot. The former EIWA champion has his eyes set on another conference championship and All-American Honors.
Kim had the Crimson’s only other victory of the afternoon, defeating Penn’s Kaya Sement 8-3. Picking up his 13th win on the year is just one step on his mission to return to the NCAA tournament this March.
“My mindset for the season has just been to improve and to wrestle with freedom. I just want to have fun out there and not hold myself back in any way,” Kim said, regarding his mentality in his final season.
In speaking with the senior class it was evident that this is an extremely tight knit group which is not taking its final weeks for granted. Kim, Conigliaro, and Jaffe all spoke to the culture Harvard wrestling has cultivated over the years. Despite their unique Harvard path, as members of the team who experienced COVID, they attested to the bonds they have created and the memories they have made.
“We all, to put it plainly, have a lot of love for one another, and want the best for each other. And that enables us to joke around and act as if we were brothers. That is what has allowed this team culture to grow so much,” Kim said.
Jaffe, who will also miss his teammates’ sense of humor, gave massive credit to veteran head coach Jay Weiss and the impact he has had on their lives.
“I've known him for a while because my older brother also went here. He is, I would say, almost like a father figure to me, a friend, a mentor. I mean, he's one of the main reasons why I chose to come here because I trust him with everything I do, whether it's life or wrestling,” said Jaffe. “He is always there to put a smile on your face. I'm so blessed to have someone like that in my life, because he truly has had such a large impact on me and has really helped me turn into the man I am today. I am so thankful for him and that he took a chance on all of us.”
These Crimson seniors have two dual matches left in the Crimson uniform, against Columbia and Brown. During the second weekend of March, they will compete in the EIWA Championships in Lewisburg, Pa. This will be the last EIWA tournament Harvard competes in, as next year will mark the first inaugural Ivy League Wrestling Tournament.
The Crimson will take on Columbia at Levien Gymnasium in N.Y. on Friday, Feb. 16th.
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