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Young wrestling gains experience in losses to more established teams

Any rebuilding athletic program needs at least three or four years to return to its former prominence. The Dallas Cowboys of the early '90s used a slew of deft trades and shrewd draft picks to craft a three-time Super Bowl winner. The Atlanta Braves couldn't beat anyone in the '80s but have made the playoffs each of the last six seasons.

So despite the wrestling team's dramatic improvement this year in ability and enthusiasm, an Ivy League championship remains a few years away.

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Against their first league competition of the year, the Tigers lost to Cornell and Columbia last weekend, 45-3, and, 38-9, respectively, before regrouping to beat Yale's club wrestling team, 21-10. Princeton also dropped a 36-10 match to Rutgers.

Silver lining

Though the final scores might appear lopsided, they demonstrate an improvement in the team's performance. Last year, the Tigers won just nine points in five matches against Ivy League foes. Four of those five matches were shutouts.

Furthermore, the losses do not represent Princeton's lack of talent but rather highlight the team's greatest weakness: youth. While some of their opponents have been wrestling for as many as ten years, the Tigers compete with a freshmen-laden roster. Against 20th-ranked Cornell, freshman Brian Foran lost to the Big Red's 24-year-old Joel Holman.

"We're still young and working hard," head coach Michael New said. "We're coming together. It just takes some time to get up to that level. We need to get a couple more recruiting classes and get them in the weight room."

Sweet success

Last weekend's losses did not overshadow a number of bright spots for Princeton. Junior Sep Kamvar and freshman Ike Himowitz each won their first-ever matches for Princeton by pinning their respective Yale opponents.

Other individual performances gave Princeton a hint of more competitive years to come. Freshmen Joe Rybacki and Juan Venturi wrestled well in winning their matches against Rutgers. Venturi continued his stellar season by winning his 118-pound match by points against Columbia as well.

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Further handicapping the Tigers were the new regulations imposed by both the NCAA and Princeton regarding cutting weight. After three wrestlers died in November and December, the NCAA moved the weigh-in time for matches from a day to two hours before the match.

Princeton added its own rules that force its wrestlers to continue weighing in the day before a match. In addition, no Princeton wrestlers are permitted to lose more than five percent of their body weight the day before a match.

"It's getting to the point where it's just ridiculous," New said of the safety guidelines. "You have to make weight three days in a row. You're putting undue pressure on these kids."

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