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Freshman standout Matthew Kolodzik became the second Midlands Tournament finalist ever for the Princeton wrestling program, improving on his fifth-place performance from last year, when he wrestled as an unattached competitor while deferring admission to the University. 

This was the biggest Midlands tournament yet, and the talented but young Tigers found themselves wrestling with some of the nation’s best programs and most decorated competitors. Ultimately, four Tiger wrestlers — Kolodzik, who was seeded first in his weight category; senior All-American Brett Harner; senior Jordan Laster; and junior Ian Baker — led Princeton. In opening Session I matches, Baker was able to eke out a 5-0 win against Lehigh’s Andrew Price, securing his advancement to the next round. Unfortunately, Baker faced elimination the next round in a 12-1 loss to Rutgers standout Nicholas Gravina. Similarly, Laster was able to advance directly to Session II. The seasoned veteran, however, faced star Northwestern freshman Ryan Deakin, a Colorado state champion. After fighting to a draw, Laster lost in a heartbreaking tiebreaker to the Wildcat. Laster went on to decisively fell two foes in the consolation rounds, before falling in another hard-fought tiebreaker to Maryland’s Albert Bannister.

Harner, a third-place finisher at the Midlands Tournament last year and the fourth seed for the 197-pound weight category, started out his tournament with a bang, sending Zach Bruce of Pittsburgh to the mat with a pin. Harner then dispatched Maryland’s David-Brian Whistler in the second round before advancing to the quarterfinals with yet another pin, this time in under one minute against Indiana’s Blake Rypel. Unfortunately, Harner would meet his match against Old Dominion’s Kevin Beazley, ranked tenth in the nation. Harner fought tenaciously, but it was Beazley who would emerge from the bout with the upper hand and a 5-2 victory. Harner wrestled in the consolation round, where he fell to another Northwestern wrestler, Jacob Berkowitz.

Kolodzik had another stellar tournament, blitzing through the quarterfinals with easy wins over his opponents. It was in the semifinals against Nebraska’s Chad Red, ranked 12th in the nation, that he first met significant trouble. Red led 3-1 with only seconds to go, but Kolodzik secured a takedown to force overtime, where he clinched a sudden victory. This set up Kolodzik’s star-studded showdown with ACC champion and All-American Kevin Jack of NC State. In a mostly defensive struggle, neither Kolodzik nor Jack was able to secure any dramatic pins or even a takedown. Ultimately, Jack won a 1-0 decision over Kolodzik by virtue of riding time, handing the star freshman his first defeat of his college career.

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