Winning 125-Pound Title at Cliff Keen Invitational, PU Wrestler Glory On Track for Goal of NCAA Crown
BOUND FOR GLORY: Princeton University wrestler Patrick Glory ties up a foe from Lehigh in a 2019 bout. Earlier this month, junior star Glory won the 125-pound title at the prestigious Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. In upcoming action, the Princeton wrestlers are slated to compete in the 58th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at Hoffman Estates, Ill. from December 29-30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Patrick Glory felt like an underdog when he arrived at Princeton University in 2018 out of the Delbarton School, but quickly established himself as one of the best in the nation in his first two seasons with the Tigers.
A year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic did nothing to interrupt his status. The start of his junior season has Glory on track to be the very best.
“Going into this year, I know what it takes and what needs to happen for me to win a national championship,” said Glory.
“With two years to go, I think the sky’s the limit with what can be accomplished, not only for myself but for the team.”
Glory ended the fall semester by winning the 125-pound title at the prestigious Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas on December 4. Glory scored a 13-0 major decision over Devin Schroder of Purdue in the final to close a dominant run.
“It’s still early in the season,” said Glory. “It was a good test to see where I’m at with some of the better guys in the weight class. At the end of the day, there’s one tournament that I really care about and that really matters. That one’s at the end of March.”
The competition that Glory has his sights on is the NCAA Championships in Detroit, Mich. from March 17-19. His anticipation has been magnified because the NCAAs were canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2019-20 season just before nationals began. Then the Ivy League canceled the 2020-21 season as well.
“It was tough to know there were people competing and we were kind of sitting there watching the whole time,” said Glory.
“People were forgetting about us and that excitement and kind of aura we built winning the Ivy title for the first time in 40 years. And having six or seven guys make it to the NCAA tournament, there’s a lot of mojo that goes into that and you kind of ride that.”
As Princeton has returned to the mat for the 2021-22 campaign, Glory has picked up where he left off. He has proven himself with early wins over top-10 foes and sits ranked second in the latest InterMat Division 1 rankings.
“Freshman and sophomore year, I was kind of always the underdog,” said Glory.
“I was right there but couldn’t beat these older guys. I was a little immature, maybe more freshman year than sophomore year. I think sophomore year I was ready to go going into that (NCAA) tournament. I think I was as mature as anybody in that field. But you build off that. Now I’m two more years mature than I was my sophomore year.”
Princeton is trying to rekindle its team excitement, and the start to the season has helped. The Tigers didn’t even have their full team at their disposal when they placed ninth out of 26 teams at Cliff Keen.
Several of Princeton’s wrestlers are scheduled to return from gap years for the spring semester, and the program is hoping the University gives permission for them to participate in the 58th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at Hoffman Estates, Ill. from December 29-30. The Tigers are looking forward to having their team together.
“The momentum and the team culture we had before COVID was the best we’ve ever had,” said Glory.
“So going from that into a year, a half without even being around your teammates, being at home, it was hard. It was something that I don’t wish on my worst enemy.”
Princeton will be even stronger when their full roster returns, but has shown promise already. The Tigers had a pair of champions at the Southeast Open on November 7 in Salem, Va., and then saw bright spots even in a 32-12 loss to No. 1 Iowa on November 19 in their first dual match of the season. Junior star Quincy Monday and sophomore Jack DelGarbino picked up wins over top-10 ranked Iowa foes. A showdown between Glory and the nation’s top-ranked 125-pounder from Iowa, Spencer Lee, did not materialize. At Cliff Keen, Glory won gold, Monday was second at 157, freshman Luke Stout was impressive in fifth at 197, and junior Travis Stefanik placed sixth at 184 pounds.
“I was really pleased with both Iowa and this tournament,” said Princeton head coach Chris Ayres.
“For the most part I was pleased with the fight in the guys. They’re going out there and trying to compete at a high level. That standard has been set by the Glory’s and the Monday’s and the Stefanik’s. They know what good wrestling looks like, and they tried to really put that out there.”
Princeton will improve when its full roster returns. Matt Cover is one such Princeton wrestler who is expected back. On the same day that the active Princeton wrestlers were wrapping up at Cliff Keen, he won all three of his bouts, including a 10-0 victory over Mexico’s Luis Rodrigo Orozco Cortez in the final to capture the 125-kilogram gold medal in the Junior Pan Am Games. Cover is expected to bolster the Tigers’ heavyweights, something that hasn’t always been a strength.
“I think we can win the EIWAs (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championship) this year,” said Ayres.
“The only way to do that is to have a really balanced lineup. Heavyweight is a huge part of that and Cover has done a good job.”
The Tigers will get to mold more completely its lineup after Midlands with a match at Rider on January 8 before welcoming top-five ranked North Carolina State on January 9. Glory is deciding if he will wrestle at Midlands, one of his favorite events, while weighing it with the season still being early. While Princeton wrestling was officially off for more than a year, the athletes continued to train on their own at the nearby wrestling center while some of them worked jobs or took classes.
“It’s a testament to how tough and relentless the guys on our team really are,” said Glory.
“We got into freestyle mode because that was the only thing we had left. We only competed in two or three tournaments and competitions throughout that time, but we were still training every day. It wasn’t like we were slacking off or anything. It was a little bit of a different training plan, a little less rigorous, a little less of a grind than a normal college season would be, but we stayed sharp and tried to improve and get better little by little however you can.”
As for Glory, he competed internationally at the U23 World Championships at the start of November in freestyle before resuming folkstyle wrestling when the Princeton season began. He wants to pace himself for the long-term goal.
“College wrestling is like no other type of wrestling in that it’s a grind,” said Glory.
“Preparing for that mentally, physically and emotionally is really important. That was for me the separator. This was kind of the beginning in the sense that it was the beginning of the preparation for the rest of the season and rest of the grind that we’re going to have.”
Glory is looking to use the season to work himself into position to win a national title. He placed sixth at nationals in his freshman year and was seeded second for the 2020 NCAAs when COVID-19 hit.
“He figured out really quickly that he belonged in the upper level,” said Ayres.
“That freshman year, you’re trying to figure it out – can I beat these guys? Now he pushed himself to that next level where he’s dominating. Early in the Cliff Keen tournament, he was a little upset. There were some close matches. But he finished really strong against a really good guy. He pretty much dominated that finals match, which was pretty exciting. He’s looking to put a stamp on that style. Winning’s not just good enough. He’s pushed himself to new levels.”
Glory’s example is one that the squad can use as Princeton is seeking to reach a higher level on the national scene. Winning the Ivy title in 2020 was a big step, and they are working to regain that team vibe as a starting point to this season’s high expectations.
“Just being back on campus has changed that culture significantly,” said Glory.
“The underclassmen, for instance, they’re all going to the dining hall together every single day and they’re studying together and they’re in the same classes together. That camaraderie that comes with being a student-athlete here was kind of unavailable last year literally because not being on campus changed that a lot. There’s something to be said about locker room banter and the being in the lifting gym and doing team yoga. All the things that happen in a normal year connect you with your teammates. We just didn’t have that last year. Things definitely are bridging from last year.”
Princeton has plenty of tests scheduled in the months ahead before it gets to the EIWA and national championships. Taking on a pair of top-five teams early are challenges with the future goals in mind.
“We do these things to prepare us for what do we have to do this season?” said Ayres. “I think we learned a ton in the Iowa dual and we learned a ton in the Cliff Keen. We know what we need to work on.”
Glory is off to the start that he wanted. He’s getting back into college wrestling mode with big goals ahead for him and the Princeton wrestling team.
“It’s just building off the stuff that we saw and going back and watching tapes and learning and getting back in the wrestling room and building off this,” said Glory.
“It’s just the beginning. It’s a good place to start, but still a lot of work to be done.”