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Though the wrestling season is barely a couple of weeks in, the Tigers (2-1) have already become quite the local celebrities.

In their first match of the season, they went up against No. 10 ranked in-state rival Rutgers in the iconic “Battle of the Birthplace”, hosted at High Point Solutions Stadium on Nov. 16. In front of the second-largest wrestling crowd in NCAA history, the Tigers fought well, with key wrestlers such as All-American junior Brett Harner and star freshman Matthew Kolodzik performing spectacularly in front of a crowd of over 16,000; ultimately, however, Rutgers prevailed with a 19-16 win.

Despite narrowly missing a chance to break a decade-long losing streak to Rutgers, the Tigers were anything but fazed or discouraged entering into their Nov. 27 doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, where they took on Maryland and Buffalo. Princeton cruised to decisive victories in both matches, winning 24-9 against the Terrapins and then 28-12 against the Bulls.

Princeton’s usual contingent of NCAA qualifiers, nationally-ranked wrestlers, and star freshmen again did their job against Maryland, whose wrestlers came into the match with two narrow losses against Virginia and Lock Haven. Despite being heavy underdogs, the Terrapins fought hard and well: Princeton freshman Ty Agaisse lost a close 3-2 decision to Maryland freshman Alex Vargas, and, in what would be the only matchup in the meet with two nationally-ranked wrestlers, Princeton’s No. 18 ranked Jordan Laster was felled by No. 13 ranked Alfred Bannister. And although Maryland won three of the first five matches, the Tigers’ depth and consistently eventually came through to help secure victory. Freshman 184-pound wrestler Kevin Parker secured a pin, while both Harner and fellow senior and NCAA veteran Ray O’Donnell came away with large wins over their opponents, enabling the Tigers to earn a significant victory.

The Princeton wrestlers had no time to rest on their laurels, however, jumping straight to the next match against Buffalo. The Bulls had had impressive showings earlier in the season, smashing Northern Illinois and nearly upsetting No.7 ranked Cornell in an 18-15 thriller. Against Princeton, Buffalo wrestled tenaciously and scored some notable victories, most notably Buffalo senior James Benjamin’s upset 7-5 overtime victory over Harner. Once again, however, the consistency and depth of talent of Princeton’s roster carried the day, as the Tigers claimed victory in five of the first six bouts. Four Princeton wrestlers left Madison Square Garden having won both their matchups, with Parker pinning both of his opponents in a stunningly successful debut.

The Tigers next travel to the University of Nebraska for the Nebraska Duels, where they will take on Drexel, No. 11 ranked Michigan State, and No. 7 ranked Nebraska on Dec. 3. The Nebraska Cornhuskers routed Princeton last fall in the Grapple at the Garden, but this year’s Tigers are far more experienced and hungry for victory. With two solid wins and a loss by only the slightest of margins to a national top-10 team, Princeton wrestling will look to make a massive impact this season.

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