In its second tournament of the season and final tournament before heading to New York City this weekend, the wrestling team took home major hardware en route to its team victory at the Navy Classic on Saturday. After placing third in Annapolis, Md. in 2013 and second in 2014, the Tigers racked up 139 points to edge runner-up Kent State (130 points) and third place Wisconsin (101.5 points) in team competition.
The Tigers’ victory was comprised of huge performances across the lineup, which included four individual champions and ten overall place winners. After falling in the finals of the Binghamton Open two weeks ago, junior 141-pounder Jordan Laster grabbed his first tournament victory of the season as he rolled through the competition before edging Navy’s Nicholas Gil by a 6-5 decision in the finals.
Sophomore Jonathan Schleifer, also a runner-up at the Binghamton Open, fought his way through nationally-ranked opponents to claim the 174-pound weight class. After grabbing a semifinal victory over No. 17 Jadaen Bernstein of Navy, a reigning Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) champion, Schleifer squared off against an even more formidable opponent in No. 4 Cody Walters of Ohio University in the finals. Schleifer edged Walters in a narrow 5-4 decision, and with the win he marked the highest-ranked victory for any Princeton wrestler during head coach Chris Ayres’ near-decade at the helm of Princeton wrestling.
In his first competition of the season, senior 184-pounder Abram Ayala, No. 10 in the nation, continued the dominance he displayed all last season, as he rolled to victory by scoring 12 points in each of his quarterfinal, semifinal and final matches. Finally, junior captain Brett Harner won his second straight tournament by claiming victory at 197 pounds. Currently ranked No. 18 in the nation, Harner joined Schleifer in knocking off a Top-10 opponent, as he edged No. 7 Phil Wellington of Ohio University by a 3-2 score in the finals.
The four champions were joined by junior heavyweight Ray O’Donnell (3rd), freshman 125-pounder Pat D’Arcy (4th), senior 149-pounder Chris Perez (4th), sophomore 197-pounder Ian Baker (4th), sophomore 157-pounder Francesco Fabozzi (6th) and senior 165-pounder Judd Ziegler (6th) to give the Tigers double-digit place winners on the day, as well as plenty to be excited about in the weeks to come.
“Saturday was an awesome debut of our tournament team,” Schleifer said. “We finished first by winning many matches and placing double digit guys, as well as crowning four champions.”
With one of its biggest team performances in recent years, the Tigers appear primed and ready to take on nationally-ranked opponents in New York City this coming weekend. Princeton will face off against Hofstra and No. 7 Nebraska in the Grapple at the Garden on Sunday, and will then head over to the New York Athletic Club to take on No. 11 Illinois. While the Tigers have struggled against Nebraska and Illinois in recent seasons, Princeton’s start to the season indicates that this weekend likely will not be a repeat of past years.
“As Coach [Ayres] says, it’s time to stop celebrating progress, and time to start hunting for success,” Schleifer said. “We’re in a great spot right now, and are ready to show off our dual meet lineup against the nation’s best in the next couple of weeks. Full steam ahead.”