Tag Archives: Monday column

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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Football Falls Short of Perfect Ivy Season, but Seniors Celebrate Championship Turnaround

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Princeton football’s Class of 2014, seen here before the Yale game, went from 1-9 seasons in its first two years to an Ivy League title as seniors. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)
Refusing to let a season-ending loss at Dartmouth keep them down, seniors from the Ivy League co-champion Princeton football team reflected on a remarkable season in advance of Sunday’s Big Three bonfire. The Ivy title, shared with Harvard, is the Tigers’ first since 2006, when they shared the honor with Yale.
 
“No matter how hard it looks you can always work yourself out of it,” senior defensive back Elijah Mitchell said. “And if you work hard enough you can accomplish the goals you set from the very beginning even if it doesn’t look like you’ll get there at first.”
 
“It’s been a long time coming to a lot of us simply because it would be hard to find a team and a group of guys that have worked harder than we have,” senior running back Brian Mills added.
 
The season has seen an accumulation of records for Princeton football, most of them by quarterback Quinn Epperly ’15. Despite doubts at the beginning of the season over who would start under center, the junior quickly showed that he knew how to score. Epperly matched Doug Butler ’86’s record for single-season passing touchdowns (set in 1983) with 25. Almost half of those touchdowns were to senior receiver Roman Wilson, who caught 11 touchdowns passes this season, matching the record of Derek Graham ’85, also set in 1983.
 
“[The records] are just kind of an added extra. Our main goal is to win, every drive we want to score, so that’s the first goal,” Wilson said. “But those are great. I think they reflect us as a team, where we’ve come and a reflection of the coaches as well.”
 
Epperly also came within one score of Keith Elias ’94’ single-season rushing touchdown record of 19 (set in 1993) with his 18th rushing touchdown of the season coming in the season finale at Dartmouth — a 28-24 loss that ended the Tigers’ eight-game winning streak. His success has not gone unnoticed: Epperly earned Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors six times.
 
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a stronger candidate than Quinn,” head coach Bob Surace ’90 said, in reference to Epperly’s chances of taking home the Ivy League’s honor for Offensive Player of the Year, the Bushnell Cup.
 

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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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Sherburne ’14 Leads Men’s Basketball to Opening Win

“It feel’s good to be back. It’s been a while,” Jimmy Sherburne said with a smile. 

After taking a one-year hiatus due to injury, the senior guard from Wisconsin is back with a bang. In the men’s basketball season opener at home against Florida A&M in Jadwin Gymnasium on Sunday, Sherburne finished second on the team in points with 13, sinking three of five 3-pointers and pushing the Tigers to a 67-50 victory over the Rattlers.

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Hans Brase ’16 attempts a shot in Princeton’s opening win over Florida A&M. Brase scored six points and led the Tigers with 10 rebounds. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

Sherburne’s not the only player who has returned to the team after a long break. Junior guard Ben Hazel and junior forward Dan Edwards are also back on this season’s roster after taking last year off, and the trio’s return couldn’t be more critical. Sunday’s game was the first test for a Tiger team playing without last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year, Ian Hummer ’13.

Hummer’s absence will have a huge impact on this year’s Princeton squad. He led his team last year scoring, assists, blocks, rebounds and offensive rebounds, leaving a large hole to fill by both returning players and new faces, and the Tigers’ freshmen class did not disappoint Sunday. Forwards Pete Miller and Spencer Weisz looked comfortable on the court throughout the game, culminating in dunk from Miller towards the end of the game on a pass from his fellow rookie.

“We got a lot of new pieces this year, a couple of freshmen in the lineup, with Pete and Spencer. Early in the year, especially, it’s important to play the right way and get a new flow,” said junior forward Denton Koon, who had added a team-high 17 points.

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Cross Country Heps: Princeton Men Finish Second, Women Place Fourth

As the men’s cross country team set out to defend its Ivy League title at Saturday’s Ivy Heptagonal Cross Country Championships, the women set out to return to the top. It was an unseasonably warm day at Princeton’s West Windsor Fields, which seemed to suit freshman Megan Curham, the Tigers’ top finisher for the day.

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Megan Curham ’17 placed fourth in the Ivy Heps Championships, helping the Princeton women earn a fourth-place finish as a team. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

Curham placed fourth for the women with a time of 20:26.1 to earn first-team All-Ivy League honors and lead the women’s team to a fourth-place finish overall. This marks the best individual finish by a Tiger since Alex Banfich ’12 placed third in 2011. Curham, a freshman from Warren, N.J., came onto the cross country scene late in high school, but has made the most of her short career. She won the 2-mile run at New Balance Indoor Track Nationals during her senior year, and since coming to Princeton, Curham has led the Tiger women, finishing first on the team in all four races in which she has competed.

“To see how [Megan] has developed here has been amazing,” senior Molly Higgins said. “She’s an incredibly hard worker and … it’s just been unbelievable to train with her and also to watch her race.”

Also scoring for the women were junior captain Emily de La Bruyere, who finished 10th and earned second-team All-Ivy League honors, as well as sophomore Kathryn Fluehr (18th), junior Lindsay Eysenbach (26th), and sophomore Kathryn Little (37th).

Dartmouth won for the women with 38 total points, while Cornell placed second with 66 points, Harvard came in third with 73 and Princeton placed fourth with 95 points.

The No. 15 Tiger men, hoping to defend their title for the fourth consecutive year, fell short in a tight race against No. 10 Columbia. Seniors Tyler Udland and Chris Bendtsen finished sixth and seventh respectively with times of 23:48.6 and 23:49.7, both earning first-team All-Ivy League honors. Senior Alejandro Arroyo Yamin finished 12th, earning second-team All-Ivy League honors. Juniors Sam Pons and  Matt McDonald (16th and 17th, respectively) rounded out the scoring, and junior Eddie Owens was close behind in 19th place. 

“We ran even with them through most of the race, through about 6k, but then they started to separate a little,” Udland said of the competition with Columbia. “We tried to move up around the last 700-800 meters, but it was just a little too much to overcome and close the gap.”

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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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