February 8, 2017

Following in Footsteps of Older Brother, Kolodzik Making Impact for PU Wrestling

MAKING HIS MOVE: Princeton University wrestler Matt Kolodzik, right, battles a foe in a bout earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman star Kolodzik, currently ranked fourth nationally at 141 pounds with a 20-2 record, posted two wins to help Princeton defeat Brown 32-6 and Harvard 33-3. The Tigers, now 7-6 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, wrestle at Columbia on February 10 and at perennial league champion Cornell on February 11. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Matt Kolodzik boasts the most glittering resume of any freshman to ever join the Princeton University wrestling program.

The native of Bellbrook, Ohio is the first top 10 recruit attracted by the Tigers. Prior to his arrival at Princeton, Kolodzik was the nation’s top-ranked wrestler by InterMat and FloWrestling at 138 pounds, a three-time National Prep champion for the Blair Academy, an Iron Man champion, a Beast of the East champion, the Fargo Cadet Freestyle champion, the Ohio state champion, and a Clinch Gear 2015 first-team All-American.

But as Kolodzik has taken the mat for the Tigers this season and risen to No. 4 nationally at 141 pounds, he is following a trail blazed by his older brother, Daniel, a 2012 Princeton alum and star wrestler who advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in his senior season.

“Almost every challenge I have met in my wrestling career, I have been preceded by him,” said Kolodzik.

“My brother has gone through pretty much the same thing; that was my impulse behind leaving for boarding school at Blair Academy after my freshman year in Ohio. All of the hard lessons I have had to learn, he learned in a much harder way and passed that knowledge down so I am super grateful for my brother. I don’t know where I would be without him.”

The Kolodzik boys started wrestling soon after they learned to walk. “I remember being in kindergarten and my dad being hey you are going to wrestle in a tournament this week,” recalled Kolodzik with a laugh.

“There are weight classes so don’t go crazy and eat a bunch of cake or anything. I remember coming home and saying dad I ate a cupcake and he said it is fine dude, it is just a cupcake.”

After winning at state in his freshman year in high school, as the only wrestler for the Miami Valley School, Kolodzik came east to the Blair Academy as his brother had done before him.

“It was my first experience working with other wrestlers; I was a one-man team for my one year in Ohio,” said Kolodzik, noting that he had four different coaches in his four years at Blair.

“When I think of Blair and my wrestling experience there, it is a lot of new impressions that I got and problems that I had to solve with a level head.”

Kolodzik’s college choice came down to Stanford and Princeton and once again he followed his brother’s lead.

“I was evaluating colleges not based solely on wrestling but on academics,” recalled Kolodzik.

“At Stanford, it was a lot of you want to do engineering that is really cool; we are also here to win a national title. I was oh fantastic, that is right where my mindset is. When I came to Princeton and saw exactly what the coaches were doing to make that happen for the wrestlers and with my brother’s perspective and the perspective I got from my visit, I knew this was the right place.”

Committing to the Tigers in the 2014-15 school year, Kolodzik deferred admission to train with the Princeton (now New Jersey) Regional Training Center (RTC).

“I lived on Witherspoon; people ask me what was that like and I say it is the best decision of my life by far,” said Kolodzik.

“It put a lot of things in perspective; I am not saying it was easy. It was very worthwhile. For me it was like you are on your own, you have got your coaches, you have got your
apartment. You got to cook for yourself. It was a very real world, aside from the fact that I wasn’t playing my own bills and stuff.”

On the mat, Kolodzik gained maturity as well, competing in the prestigious Midlands Championships and then placing first at 141 pounds in the University Nationals.

“Going to Midlands last year, it was kind of like I always knew that college was a whole other level and it was alright, let’s see if I am up to snuff here,” recalled Kolodzik.

“After I hit Midlands, it was alright I can do this. I went to University Nationals and ended up winning.”

Starting his Princeton career in the fall of 2016, Kolodzik has kept winning. He opened the season by placing first at 141 in the Southeast Open and currently has a 20-2 record.

While wrestling has been going smoothly, Kolodzik has been pushed in keeping up with his engineering studies.

“In terms of wrestling, it has been the grind as I expected it,” said Kolodzik, who posted two wins to help Princeton defeat Brown 32-6 and Harvard 33-3 last Saturday as the Tigers improved to 7-6 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.

“The part that has been new has been trying to balance school. I talked to my brother a lot about it. It is definitely a different perspective but it is fun. That has been my main challenge. In terms of wrestling, it is business as usual, get your workout in and keep grinding.”

Although Kolodzik is dedicated to helping Princeton grind out an Ivy League title as it wrestles at Columbia on February 10 and perennial league champion Cornell on February 11, he has his sights set on bigger things.

“Win an NCAA title, I don’t think anything else really matters,” said Kolodzik, who also aspires to compete at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

“I think I have to work on breaking down my wrestling a little more. I have a tendency to always focus and have a live in the moment type thing. When I am
going hard, I need to go super hard. When I am breaking technique down to learn how to beat guys, I need to slow down and look at that stuff.”

Competing with the guys on the Princeton team has helped Kolodzik get through the hard moments.

“I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how thankful I am for coach (Chris) Ayres and the team in general,” said Kolodzik. “I couldn’t survive without them; it has been a good experience.”

The Tigers, for their part, are certainly thankful to have another Kolodzik in the program.