With only a few more weeks left in the wrestling season, Princeton is determined to take advantage of every remaining moment. So far, this last-minute rush has included events as varied as dedicating a new facility and holding special events for the seniors. And in his spare time, one Tiger even managed to pin a nationally-ranked wrestler.
Junior Jeff Bernd jumpstarted the hectic week Tuesday in his match at 149 pounds, pinning Rutgers' Jon Forster, who is ranked No. 15 in the country. Bernd's pin, which followed a 5-2 decision in favor of freshman Joe Clarke at 141 pounds, put the Tigers up by a 9-0 margin in their dual meet at Rutgers. While Princeton eventually lost the match, 31-12, the Tigers never lost the momentum that Bernd initiated.
"It felt good," Bernd said. "Hopefully I'm peaking at the right moment since we're coming to the end of the season."
"Bernd was phenomenal," head coach Mike New said. "He used his own style. He was aggressive, confident and intense."
In the Tigers' final home match of the season, Princeton hosted George Mason, Sacred Heart, Penn and Franklin and Marshall. Despite losses to Penn and George Mason, Princeton solidly defeated Sacred Heart.
Going out on top
It was a nostalgic match for senior captains Justin Dodulik and Marc Steyer, who each won two of their three matches.
"I'm glad we went out on a winning note," Dodulik said. "It was great to see the team wrestle well."
"We gave Penn a good match," New said. "We didn't wrestle that well against George Mason, but we hammered Sacred Heart."
Freshman Greg Parker went undefeated for the weekend in his first performance at Dillon, winning all three of his matches.
"I lost to the guy from Sacred Heart earlier this season," Parker said. "But I've been preparing well since then and wrestling smarter."
As part of the occasion, the parents of the seniors were recognized at the match. Following the match's conclusion, the dedication of the new Class of '58 Wrestling Room served as the grand finale to a huge week for the Tigers.
The team lost its practice room when the University dropped the wrestling program in 1993. The room was then given to the football team for weight training. Thanks to contributions from the Class of '58 and the Friends of Princeton Wrestling — an alumni group — the team has been given a new wrestling room at Jadwin Gym.
The dedication ceremony included a performance by the band, speeches and a long locomotive chant — a traditional wrestling cheer.
"[Attending the ceremony was] one of the best things I've done at Princeton," freshman Seth Dunipace said. "It was so enriched with pride and tradition. It was exciting."
A room of their own
The team has been practicing in the new room for about two weeks. Previously, its practice time was spent on the basketball courts at Dillon Gym. Improvements in having their own room include higher ceilings and being able to keep the mats down permanently. The room is well-padded and, according to Dunipace, it's the "best in the nation."
"The new room makes practice a lot more intense," Bernd said. "It's good for recruiting, too. We can practice whenever we want.
"We're all going to die of asphyxiation from the fumes. But seriously, it's wonderful. It's easier to focus and helps legitimize the program."
The wrestlers will compete at Easterns in two weeks. The results of this tournament determine who competes at nationals.