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.
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.”