Here’s how head wrestling coach Chris Ayres would describe his season’s first half: “hard.”
The list of no. 16 Princeton wrestling’s opponents over December and January reads like a who’s-who of dynastic programs: no. 7 Lehigh, no. 9 Oklahoma State, no. 1 Iowa, no. 25 Rider, no. 17 University of North Carolina, no. 6 North Carolina State.
“Contrary to popular belief,” said Ayres earlier this year when asked about that lineup, “I do not hate my team.”
Here’s how Ayres would describe his season’s second half: “well, less hard.”
Princeton wrestling opened its Ivy League season last weekend with faceoffs against Harvard and Brown. Those two squads were the team’s first unranked rivals of the season; before the end of the month, the Tigers will face three more.
In both Cambridge and Providence, the team secured 17-point wins: 27–12 and 29–10, respectively. Though convincing, the margins pale in comparison to the Tigers’ December 23-point routing of no. 25 Rider, a stronger team than either Ivy one.
The Harvard match began as most Princeton matches do: with domination from 125-pound no. 3 sophomore Patrick Glory, who logged his eighth fall of the season to finish off Harvard’s Nolan Hellickson in just one minute 38 seconds.
Senior 133-pound Ty Agaisse nabbed a 10–8 victory. Losses by sophomores Marshall Keller at 141 and Josh Breeding standing in for senior captain Mike D’Angelo at 149 handed Harvard two straight wins.
Next up was no. 5 sophomore superstar Quincy Monday at 157, facing Harvard’s unranked Hunter Ladnier. But expecting a drubbing, the crowd got a battle instead. Monday scrapped his way to a meager 9–8 decision.
And Harvard’s no. 17 Philip Conigliaro got the better of no. 23 sophomore Grant Cuomo, who’d clawed his way to his first national ranking just two weeks earlier. Harvard had three wins; Princeton did too. It seemed almost a match between equals.
Senior 174-pound Kevin Parker, sophomore 184-pound Travis Stefanik, and junior 197-pound no. 3 Pat Brucki all put Princeton points on the board with a 15–0, 3:47 tech fall, a 16–6 major decision, and a 1:41 fall, respectively. All three wrestlers faced unranked opponents. And first-year, unranked heavyweight Aidan Connor put up a valiant fight against Harvard’s no. 10 Yaraslau Slavikouski, limiting him to an 11–4 decision.
The match was over. Princeton was victorious, if not quite dominant. South the Tigers traveled, to Rhode Island and a squad of entirely unranked athletes.
The meet started at 141 with Keller. He gave up another match, this time 8–3 to Brown’s unranked James Pawelski. Breeding proved consistent in defeat as well, suffering a 7–3 loss to Brown’s unranked 149-pounder. And first-year Jack Lang stepped in for Monday at 157 to make his dual debut; a 12–3 major decision loss made the score 9–0 for Brown.
Cuomo turned the tide at 165, logging a fall at 2:59 to improve to a 1–1 record on the weekend. And from there, it was over for the Bears. Parker earned a 16–7 major decision, Stefanik a 13–3 one. Brucki trounced Brown’s Nino Bastianelli 14–5.
Conner earned his first collegiate major with a 12–0 shutdown of Brown’s Thomas Mukai. Glory trounced his opponent 10–1. And closing out the day at 133, Agaisse ended the major decision streak but kept the victory one going with a 6–3 win.
The Tigers’ core three — Glory, Monday, and Brucki — were still its core three. In Cuomo’s match against Consigliaro — the only really anticipated tossup of the weekend — he’d come up short. Keller had faltered. In place of D’Angelo, Breeding had too.
But Princeton, the highest-ranked Ivy in the nation, was still 2–0 in the League. Two more Ivy matches remain, both this weekend. The Tigers will take on Columbia in Jadwin Gym on Saturday and no. 17 Cornell on Sunday.