Author Archives: Stephen Wood

Wrestling Returns to Jadwin, Drops Match to Rutgers

Neither the snowstorm nor the onset of winter break prevented a large crowd from trekking to Jadwin Gymnasium Saturday night to see the Princeton wrestling team host Rutgers in what was billed as “a celebration of New Jersey wrestling.” The Tigers fell to the Scarlet Knights, but there were still signs throughout the night that head coach Chris Ayers has his team – which, at 3-1, already has more wins than it did last season – on the right track.

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Adam Krop ’15 (Photo: Office of Athletic Communications)

After a slow start for the Tigers in which Jordan Laster ’17 lost despite escaping a number of tight situations, Adam Krop ’15 brought the crowd to its feet, pinning his opponent in an overpowering display at 141 lbs. and tying the team score. Ayers praised Krop for getting the win after the Tigers lost the match before his at 133 lbs.

“We really thought we were gonna take 133. I think Krop thought that too,” Ayers said. “So for him to come out and ignite things a little bit was what we needed at the time. So he really did his job.”

Krop’s win was especially heartening to Tiger fans given that he had been absent from the mat until quite recently. The knee injury that kept him out for the entire 2012-13 season was just one of several medical issues which have plagued Princeton in the last few years.

In the wake of those injuries, inexperienced wrestlers have been shouldering much of the burden. One example, Abe Ayala ’16, has been proving himself capable all season and did so again Saturday. Wrestling at 165 lbs., Ayala kept his match close with two well-executed escapes and took down his man in the third period to earn a 6-4 win. Though it was too little, too late for Princeton, it gave the crowd much to cheer about.

“Abe’s wrestling well. He’s focused on wrestling and nothing else,” Ayers said. “You can see him out there – he’s made a jump to where he’s not concerned about other things, he’s just trying to score points. That’s it. He’s not thinking about his shape, he’s not thinking that he’s tired, he just keeps wrestling.”

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Talent, Creativity Propel Football to Ivy Title

Tailback Dre Nelson ’16 scored the first of Princeton football’s eight touchdowns against Yale Saturday. The Tigers lined up in what has now become something of a signature formation with three quarterbacks — Quinn Epperly ’15, Connor Michelsen ’15, and Kedric Bostic ’16 — in the backfield. Though each was a threat to run or throw the ball, head coach Bob Surace ’90 and offensive coordinator James Perry were not satisfied with that level of complexity and instead had the ball snapped straight to Nelson. He ran to the outside and went the distance thanks to a block from third-string quarterback Bostic.

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Dre Nelson ’16 weaves through the defense on the first of his two touchdowns against Yale. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

Nelson added 35 more yards and another score as the game went on. He was one of four Tigers to run for over 30 yards. That stat, and his run, demonstrate the creativity and resourcefulness that have made the difference between the 1-9 Tigers of two years ago and this year’s Tigers, currently 8-1 and guaranteed at least a share of the Ivy League title.

It’s easy to look at the Tigers and see only Epperly, who is having one of the best seasons of any college quarterback and has set innumerable records. Against Yale, however, Epperly accounted for a relatively low percentage of Princeton’s points — he was responsible for only half the touchdowns. His accuracy was good, but not perfect, giving his receivers ample opportunity to show off their skills. Roman Wilson ’14 had 115 yards and a touchdown, making several catches on the sideline with his feet just barely in bounds. Connor Kelley ’15 showed off his athleticism on a touchdown grab when he had to elevate and out-maneuver a Yale defender. The defender was flagged for interference, but Kelley still made the catch.

Plays like that have lifted the Tigers to heights that didn’t seem possible just two years ago. All the players mentioned above were recruited when the Tigers were at the bottom of the Ivy League standings, yet Surace and Perry managed to attract them and have figured out some very original ways to use them.

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Epperly-to-Wilson Puts Princeton Over the Top, Again

After a storybook comeback in last year’s Harvard game, the Princeton football team seemed to have used up all its luck. As the Tigers dropped three of their next four games, Quinn Epperly ’15’s lob to the end zone, which was caught by Roman Wilson ’14 for the winning touchdown, looked more and more like a fluke. But one year later, on Oct. 26, the Tigers went to Cambridge and proved that they didn’t need luck to take down Harvard — they had the talent.

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Quinn Epperly ’15, show in action against Columbia, continued his remarkable season with a record-setting win at Harvard Oct. 26. To date, he has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for 11. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

This year’s game ended in an almost identical fashion to last year’s. Needing to score, Epperly chucked it into the corner of the end zone and Wilson, with a Crimson player right on him, came down with it. Last year’s score put the Tigers up late in the final quarter of a game that ended 39-34. This year’s touchdown ended the third overtime period in a game that saw Princeton put up 51 points to edge Harvard’s 48.

What was striking about Saturday’s game was how different Princeton’s offense looked this time around. With quarterback Connor Michelsen ’15 sidelined by an injury, it was the first time in Epperly’s college career that he took every snap. Last season, he split time with Michelsen against Harvard, and each had his moments. As the tape of the final touchdown shows, however, Epperly’s pass could just as easily have been one of the worst moments of his season. He was under pressure and threw off the wrong foot, leaving it up to Wilson to get around the defender and make an outstanding catch.

This season, the game-winning touchdown exemplified how far Epperly, and Princeton’s offense, has come. Filled with confidence during his best passing game ever — he broke one school record with 37 completions in the game and another with six passing touchdowns — Epperly faked a quarterback dive, selling it completely, and delivered a perfect throw to his favorite target, Wilson.

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Tires, Weights, and a Common Goal: Wrestling, Men’s Hockey Teams Face Off in Preseason Competition

All was quiet behind Princeton Stadium just after 9 a.m. on Saturday morning until a pack of muscular, orange-and-black-clad men hurtled around the corner towards DeNunzio Pool like it was the running of the bulls. Those students, from the men’s hockey and wrestling teams (clad in orange and black, respectively), were taking part in their third annual strength-and-conditioning competition, held each fall.

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Members of the wrestling team, top, and men’s hockey team, bottom, competed in conditioning races Saturday morning. The event has become an annual tradition for the programs. (Photos: Jackson Dobies ’14)

The event was sparked by a conversation about preseason workouts, between wrestling coach Chris Ayers and hockey coach Bob Prier. They organized a group workout with an element of friendly competition. Each year, the teams’ coaches come up with exercises designed to test the strength of both groups without giving one too much of an advantage.

“Last year the final event was soccer and obviously hockey’s a team sport so they were a lot better at that,” said Max Rogers ’16 of the wrestling team. “[But] this is our year.”

In addition to the opening footrace, this year’s events included a series of relay races. One involved flipping an enormous tire around a cone and back five times, with a different player pushing it each time. In the second, each player had to push a weight-laden sled around a cone and back. The final challenge was a speed-walking relay race, which may sound relatively easy but was not — each walker carried two giant weights.

“We just want to do stuff that requires teamwork and the guys to get after each other, and also that they get pretty tired doing it,” Ayers said.

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