Last Saturday's matches brought a trio of finishes to the wrestling team as the Tigers completed their first regular season as a varsity sport in five years.
In a dual meet at Dillon Gym, Princeton finished its Ivy League competition against No. 14 Penn, 40-4, and culminated its regular season on a winning note as it defeated Wagner for the second time this year, 30-16.
Princeton finished the first of what may be a few rebuilding seasons with a respectable 9-11 record. And although its only Ivy League victory came against Yale's club team, Princeton showed marked improvement over the course of the year with its freshmen-laden roster.
The team showcased its development in the win over the Seahawks. Three of the Tigers' six individual victories came by technical fall, and after freshman Scott Pasquini used a series of near falls to wrap up a 15-0 thrashing of Wagner's Sam Valdez, Princeton led the match, 27-4.
"He let me do the same things over and over again," Pasquini said. "I'm a lot better on my feet. Once I got up, I put him on his back (for good)."
While most of the freshmen who constitute the roster gained more valuable mat experience, last year's returning starters continued to improve their game.
Sophomore Ryan Bonfiglio tuned up for Easterns by tech falling Wagner's Dave Lehman, 23-6, in a match intended to hone Bonfiglio's tactics.
"I've been working with the coaches, especially Coach (Paul) Collier, in preparing for Easterns," Bonfiglio said. "We're working on offensive attacks and staying aggressive, working front head locks and underhooks."
Against powerhouse Penn, the young Princeton squad could not muster much strength, and had it not been for freshman Juan Venturi's 17-9 win in the 126-pound weight class, the Tigers would have been shut out by the Quakers for the second straight year.
Even though most of the athletes who represented Penn Saturday had wrestled on junior varsity most of the season, Princeton was clearly overmatched. Aside from Venturi's win and sophomore Jeff Bernd's one-point loss to Jonathan Gough, each Tiger lost his match by at least seven points as Penn triumphed, 40-4.
Though Princeton's long term goal is to wrestle competitively against teams like Penn and Cornell, its immediate goal is to prepare for Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships March 6. Part of that preparation includes an optional morning workout schedule to complement its normal afternoon practices.
"Right now we're working to make sure we're peaking at Easterns," Bonfiglio said.