The snowstorm that hit the area last Saturday may have kept the crowd down at the “Celebration of New Jersey Wrestling” held at Jadwin Gym in conjunction with the Princeton University-Rutgers match but it didn’t dampen the spirit of those who did brave the inclement weather.
“It was an awesome environment to compete in,” said Princeton wrestling head coach Chris Ayres, who estimated that a crowd of around 700 turned out for festivities which included a youth wrestling match, a clinic conducted by a Princeton and Rutgers assistant coaches, and a parade of former New Jersey state high school champions during halftime of the college match.
“The upper deck was closed so all the fans were in the big bleachers down by the floor. The best thing was recognizing the state champions; that piece was due to coach [Joe] Dubuque and he has gotten so many e-mails thanking him for that.”
Unfortunately, the Tigers, who came into the day with a 3-0 record in dual matches, didn’t compete as well as they had hoped, falling 27-9 to their local rivals.
“We didn’t perform very well,” said Ayres. “I have to credit Rutgers, they wrestled harder. In five matches we scored first but we weren’t finishing strong. It is a young team and we are still figuring some things out.”
Princeton’s two wins against the Scarlet Knights came from junior Adam Krop at 141 pounds and from sophomore Abe Ayala at 197. Krop pinned Tyson Dippery while Ayala outpointed Hayden Hrymack 6-4.
“Krop has been on and off; he has been injured a bit,” said Ayres. “In the Rutgers match, he was on. He is fun to watch. He saw an opening and he got that pin which is what good wrestlers do. Ayala keeps getting better; he lost to the kid from Rutgers in the Binghamton tournament and came back and really controlled the match. It is exciting to see.”
The Tigers have produced some exciting results in the first month of the season.
“We have competed really well,” asserted Ayres, who is in his seventh year at the helm of the program.
“We were third in the Navy Invitational ahead of such schools as Bucknell, Kent State, and Ohio. At Madison Square Garden, we went 2-0 and beat Army for the first time in 40 years, we think. We are still checking on that. We then beat Binghamton for the first time.”
With a lineup featuring a number of freshmen and sophomores, Princeton has room for plenty of growth.
“Everyone has been doing their duty,” said Ayres, who had three freshmen (Jordan Laster, Matt Gancayco, and Brett Harner) and four sophomores (Kevin Moylan, Scott Gibbons, Cole Lampman, and Ayala) wrestling in the Rutgers match
“Matthew Gancayco beat a guy in Army who had been 3rd in EIWA. Brett Harner is having a great season. Chris Perez (a sophomore) won the Drexel match for us with a big pin. Guys have stepped up at different times.”
Although Princeton didn’t step up against Rutgers, Ayres believes the loss will prove to be a good learning experience for his young team.
“That was the hard thing about Rutgers,” lamented Ayres, whose team will compete in the Wilkes Open in Wilkes, Pa. on December 28 before heading to the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill. from December 29-30.
“We felt like we could win the match or be in a position to win the match. I think we will make another big jump. We have Midlands coming up and two years ago we got a third there.”
No matter what happens as the team wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule, Ayers believes the program has already made a big jump.
“I think the commitment level and the competition in the room are the biggest areas of progress,” said Ayres.
“In the past if we had a starter out, there was no one to really step in. We have talent and depth. If we have to sit someone, we feel the next guy can come in and do a good job. Last year, we knew our starting lineup by now. This year we still have three or four weights up in the air.”