Princeton wrestling had never produced a champion at the Chicago-based Ken Kraft Midlands Championships. They left this year’s tournament with two.
The Princeton squad powered through Midlands’ stiff competition to finish in a program-best fifth place. It trailed No. 10 Wisconsin by only five points.
Throughout the tournament and the season, three clear leaders emerged: the nationally-ranked trio of junior Matthew Kolodzik (No. 1 at 149 pounds), sophomore Patrick Brucki (No. 3 at 197), and first-year Patrick Glory (No. 10 at 125).
Kolodzik ended the weekend an individual champion, set to continue on towards a national title. But along the way, he encountered a bump: his third-round opponent. A redshirt freshman at Arizona State, Jacori Teemer led Kolodzik with only 40 seconds left in the match.
In Kolodzik’s words, Teemer was “phenomenal,“ but at no point did the Princetonian panic. “I just felt the pressure build,” he explained. “I knew I needed to score.” As the clock wound down, he did just that, forcing the match into overtime.
At that point, said head coach Christopher Ayres, “the match was over.” A late takedown from Kolodzik cemented a win, and he never looked back. With three more commanding victories under his belt, he claimed Princeton’s first Midlands individual title and retained his top national seed.
For now, his throne is safe. But next year, Ayres said with a chuckle, “Teemer’s going to be trouble.”
Brucki saw none of Kolodzik’s drama. He won by technical fall twice, major decision thrice, and decision once. In short, he dominated the 197-pound division, steamrolling his opponents. “He’s just so tough,” said Kolodzik. “Always resilient, always determined.”
For Glory, who finished third in the 125-pound division, Midlands offered a shot at redemption. Earlier in the season, Iowa’s Spencer Lee, ranked No. 2 nationally, had bested him with a technical fall. In the Midlands semifinals, the two faced off again. This time, Glory held his ground. He finished with six points to Lee’s twelve, losing the match but demonstrating his considerable growth.
To their teammates and coaches, two other wrestlers, first-year Quincy Monday and junior Kevin Parker, also stood out on the mat. Though neither of them placed, they proved essential to Princeton’s fifth-place finish.
It was a weekend of historic triumphs. But for Princeton’s fiercely determined team, it wasn’t enough.
“We had a lot of success, saw a lot of growth, especially from our young guys,” said Brucki. “That being said, we should have placed higher.”
Kolodzik agreed. “It was a fine performance. Everybody wrestled pretty well; nobody wrestled his best.”
But dissatisfaction aside, the Midlands performance has provided Princeton’s squad with renewed confidence for the season ahead.
“We proved that we can compete with the best teams in the country,” said first-year Travis Stefanik.
“We learned a huge amount from the weekend,” Coach Ayres elaborated. “We know we have three really great guys, guys who potentially can put themselves in a position to win a national title. And we learned we have a whole host of guys who, with just a little jump, can become really great too — and turn our team from good to incredible.”
This coming weekend, Princeton will have two opportunities to prove its greatness. On Friday night, it will face No. 15 North Carolina; on Saturday afternoon, No. 3 Oklahoma. Both will be highly contested match-ups, and both will hopefully reaffirm the team’s hopes and dreams for March.