Had the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association tournament taken place a weekend later, the wrestling team would have had a reasonable explanation for its terrible luck.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, however, not even a Friday the 13th curse could have positioned them in a more dubious situation at Lehigh University Friday.
Perhaps emulating the NCAA basketball selection committee, officials at the tournament paired half of Princeton's team members with the No. 1 seeds in their respective weight classes. Against such lopsided odds and more experienced competition, the Tigers struggled heavily, managing just one win as a team.
Some matchups resembled a Duke-Coppin State game more than others. Freshman Joe Rybacki found himself in a first-round match against Syracuse's Jason Gleasman, an alternate on the 1996 United States Olympic team. After pinning Rybacki in the first period, Gleasman went on to win the Sheridan Award for acquiring the most falls in the championship round.
For his first match, fellow freshman Brian Foran lined up opposite one of last year's national finalists in the 167-pound division, Brandon Slay of Penn. Slay later set the tournament record for most individual career points.
Sophomore Marc Steyer, along with freshmen Juan Venturi, Chris McLaughlin and Ike Himowitz, also faced top seeds in their respective weight classes.
Some of the Tigers felt that the imbalanced pairings did not make too dramatic a difference in the end results.
"It's a little tougher, but not really," said Steyer, who lost 17-1 to 118-pound champion Jeremy Sluyter of East Strousberg. "Usually anybody can beat anybody. Not all the No. 1 seeds win. You can't really worry about it because everyone's so tough there."
Eighth-seeded Venturi, the only Princeton wrestler to receive a seeding in the tournament, won the Tigers' only match of the day in the consolation bracket, defeating Brown's Clay Weisberg, 10-5. It was Princeton's first win in the tournament since 1995.
In addition, Venturi, arguably Princeton's most consistent wrestler throughout the regular season, lost by only one point to the eventual 126-pound champion, Penn's Steve Walker.
Other than that, Princeton hardly made an impact in the tournament, finishing well behind the champion Quakers. Furthermore, since only the top two finishers in each weight class and six "wild card" wrestlers will proceed to the NCAA championships at Cleveland State in two weeks, Princeton's season is officially over.
But despite their 13th-place finish in Bethlehem, Pa., the Tigers hope this experience will help propel them toward more success in the future.
"We're just taking our knocks now," said McLaughlin. "In a few years, we should be wrestling with all those guys."