A tough loss to Columbia disappointed the wrestling team over Intersession, but it may turn out to be just what the Tigers needed to increase motivation and focus as the team heads into the most intense part of its season.
Princeton equaled Columbia for individual wins, splitting the 10 bouts down the middle, but Lion heavyweight David Boyuk helped shift the advantage towards Columbia with the only pin of the competition, giving the Lions a 19-15 win.
"We had to move our weight classes around," head coach Mike New said. "Their two best guys are in the top weight classes and we had to move guys around to account for that. [Junior Brian Foran and senior Justin Dodulik] sacrificed for the team."
Even with both Foran and Dodulik taking losses at 197-pounds and heavyweight, respectively, the Tigers only came up one match short of their first Ivy League win.
"We should've won in a couple different places," New said.
One of those places may have been junior Jeffrey Bernd's controversial loss to Richard Feistmas at 149-pounds.
"Bernd got a bad call at the beginning of his match," sophomore Albert Pendleton said.
Bernd worked his way back into the match to a 5-1 advantage before ending with a close 12-8 loss.
Close to victory
But Bernd's match was just one of three that could have changed the end result in the win-loss column. Despite their near miss, the Tigers are determined to learn from the past and move forward.
"I made a mistake at the end," Bernd said. "And there was another guy who got taken down in the last 20 seconds. There's always stuff that could've gone the other way."
After their disappointing match, Princeton continued to struggle against Cornell and Navy, falling 34-9 and 31-6, respectively.
"We're not as physically mature as those teams," New said. "And we were down from being beaten by Columbia."
But Bernd was able to benefit from the Columbia loss, increasing his concentration for the match against Navy.
"We had a really good week of practice physically," Bernd said. "And since it was our last match I had a lot of time to think. I focused on my match a lot, and I wrestled better."
Bernd's concentration helped him earn a 6-4 victory over Navy's Jason Ford. Bernd and freshman Joe Clarke were the only two Princeton wrestlers to win their matches against the Midshipmen. Clarke defeated Navy's Mike Simon at 141-pounds by a 10-5 margin.
There were also two Tigers who registered wins against Cornell. Pendleton won his bout at 157-pounds against George Bell, 7-1, and sophomore Jon Bunt won by forfeit.
As the wrestlers move forward into the long stretch of their season, New continues to be optimistic in spite of the increased intensity.
"It's a war out there," New said. "The matches are grinding and grueling. But we're getting better every time. The other teams are getting better too, but we're closing the gap. We could be there sooner or later - depending on the guys."
New thinks that a big part of that gap could be closed as soon as this weekend when the Tigers will wrestle against Boston College, Harvard and Drexel.
"If our studs win this weekend, we'll win," New said.