In Philadelphia on Saturday, Princeton wrestling (8–6 overall, 4–1 Ivy) claimed the title of Ivy League runners-up and clinched its first four-match win streak over the University of Pennsylvania (5–8, 2–3) since 1988.
Last weekend, Princeton suffered an overwhelming loss to Cornell and an unexpectedly narrow victory against Columbia. Heading into this matchup, the wrestlers were determined to prove themselves.
“We wanted to make a statement,” said first-year Patrick Glory. “We knew we were a lot better than Penn — it was just about focusing, executing, and wrestling to our full potential.”
Junior captain Matthew Kolodzik called the team’s attitude “really positive, really workmanlike.” To his mind, “everyone knew he had a job to do; everyone was confident he could get it done.”
Workmanlike indeed — with stunning efficacy, the Tigers worked their way through the Quakers’ roster, walking away from the day with a dominant 28–6 victory.
No. 10 Glory opened Saturday’s meet in his usual fashion: with an impressive 10–3 win over Penn’s Carmen Ferrante. The score was just 3–1 for Glory at the beginning of the third period; he scored all of his last seven points in the final, thrilling minute of the face-off.
The following matchup proved less dramatic. Sophomore Jonathan Gomez fell 1–0 to Penn’s 133-pounder Doug Zapf.
But first-year Marshall Keller got the Tigers back on track in the 141-pound division, posting a 6–4 decision. Keller set the tone for the next face-off, the most anticipated individual match of the meet: No. 2 Kolodzik against Penn’s No. 13, first-year Anthony Artalona.
Kolodzik, a two-time All-American, two-time EIWA champion, and favorite for this year’s NCAA championship title, entered the weekend with a 16–1 record and six wins over nationally ranked rivals. Artalona, one of last year’s most highly touted recruits, was on a six-match win streak.
Just over a minute into the first period, Kolodzik scored a nimble takedown off a restart. But Artalona was not to be deterred; with escapes late in the first and early in the second period, he evened the score to 2–2. With 1:03 left in the second, a dramatic single-leg takedown of Kolodzik earned Penn’s wrestler a two-point advantage. It took Kolodzik all of three seconds to score a reversal, tying the score at 4–4.
Artalona earned an escape; Kolodzik did, too. Twenty-five seconds remained in regulation time. The score stood at 5–5. The crowd got to its feet, and Princeton’s wrestlers looked on in worry.
But to Kolodzik, it was just another day at the office.
“I didn’t want the match to go into overtime,” he said. “So I knew I wasn’t going to let it go into overtime.”
With 22 seconds left, he scored a takedown. The match ended 7–5; Artalona’s win streak came to an end.
Next up on the mat was first-year Quincy Monday. His 10–5 decision over Penn’s Joe Oliva advanced him to a perfect 5–0 record in the Ivy League.
“We’re really proud of Quincy,” said Kolodzik. “He’s an athlete. That kid really knows how to wrestle. He’s focused and I think he’s going to do really well in the postseason.”
Junior Leonard Merkin earned a 2–1 decision. First-year Travis Stefanik and junior Kevin Parker both scored major decisions against their opponents.
And then it was time for another Princeton standout: No. 3 sophomore captain Pat Brucki. He won by technical fall, posting a dominant 17–2 victory against Penn’s Greg Bensley.
“Brucki really leads by example,” said Glory. “Coming off his loss against Cornell last week, he didn’t sulk or dwell on it. He came back really strong. No matter what happens, no matter how much adversity he faces, he’ll go out there and wrestle seven minutes hard. He sets a great example for the freshmen and for the whole team to see.”
In all, Princeton left the dual with only two losses. Consequently, the wrestlers believed they had mounted a performance to be proud of.
“We wrestled really well,” said Glory. “We definitely dominated in a way that we didn’t against Cornell and Columbia. It was great to really come out strong.”
This Friday, the Tigers will return to Philadelphia for their last dual meet of the season, against Drexel University (4–9). The Dragons are on a five-game losing streak, but by no means will Princeton’s wrestlers let their guard down.
“We learned the hard way what happens when you take an opponent too lightly,” said Kolodzik. “We’re ready to go get it done this weekend. Everybody just wants to absolutely do their best and head into postseason feeling confident.”