Garrett Frey '13, in black, was the EIWA runner-up at 125 pounds. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)
If the wrestling team had any home-mat advantage at this weekend’s EIWA Championships, it came in a strange form. Accustomed to competing in Dillon Gymnasium, the team instead joined 13 other schools in cavernous Jadwin, where no current Tigers had ever competed in a college meet. The thousands of fans were split well between the 14 squads, with a large Lehigh contingent the most vocal group in attendance.
But for head coach Chris Ayres and the rest of the Princeton wrestling family, those details were secondary. In bringing the EIWA meet back to Jadwin – which was once a regular host of the championships but had not held it since 1987 – the Tigers made a statement that their program, once nearly left for dead
, is committed to being a real threat again.
“It’s more than what I expected. It took everybody in the department to pull this off effectively, and to get that support is amazing,” Ayres said. “I feel really privileged to be a part of the athletic department and the University. They really didn’t have to do this – we haven’t done it in 25 years, it’s not a thought on their minds – but they’re people who do the right thing, and it was time.”
The Tigers represented their program ably on the mats as well, led by Garrett Frey ’13 and Dan Kolodzik ’12, each of whom performed well enough to qualify for the NCAA tournament. This year will mark the first time Princeton has sent multiple wrestlers to nationals since 2001.
Frey, seeded second at 125 pounds, lived up to his ranking this weekend. None of his first three matches lasted the full time, as the junior earned a technical fall in his first bout and pinned his next two opponents to reach Sunday’s championship, where he dropped a close decision to top-seeded Frank Perrelli.
Kolodzik also had punched a ticket to the NCAAs by Saturday afternoon, solidifying his bid with an 11-3 victory over Navy’s Bobby Barnhisel in the quarterfinals. Though he lost to two-time national champion Kyle Dake (Cornell) in the semis, he went on to take a career-best fourth-place finish.
But not all of the Tigers ended the meet as happily. Chris Perez ’15 and Adam Krop ’14 competed in large braces after badly injuring their right knees in February. Krop, clearly not at full strength, managed to win his first match, but re-injured his knee when he was taken down hard by eventual champion Matthew Mariacher (American University) late in his quarterfinal bout and hobbled off of the mat.
Perez also defeated his first opponent, but not long after Krop’s injury, Perez aggravated his own knee on the same mat and had to be carried off of the surface. Both young wrestlers conceded medical forfeits in their final matches, casting a disappointing shadow over what had been very successful seasons.
“This day’s been really hard, watching them sitting in the corner and wondering what’s going to happen next,” Ayres said. “We pulled the plug on both of them – they both wanted to continue, but it just wasn’t the right thing. They just have so much pride, they want to represent the University and themselves, and they don’t want to quit.”