CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The results have been tallied and the fans have spoken, voting Todd Preston’s Most Outstanding Wrestler honors at the EIWA Championships as their favorite moment of 2013-14.
“I want to thank everyone who voted for me the last few weeks and everyone who supported our program throughout the year,” Preston stated. “This is further evidence that if you focus on the things you can control, everything else will work itself out.”
More than 26,000 votes were cast in the bracket-style challenge to select the fan’s favorite moment from the past year. Preston narrowly edged out the women’s track and field team for the inaugural crown, which won both the indoor and outdoor Ivy League Heptagonal Championships for just the second time in program history. Also reaching the semifinals of the challenge were the men’s squash team, which captured the 2014 CSA Team National Championship, and Denis Nguyen of the men’s tennis team, who reached the semifinals of the 2014 NCAA singles tournament.
In what may go down as one of the most exciting finals matches in recent memory, Preston became Harvard wrestling's 21st EIWA Champion with an 8-6 victory in a second sudden victory overtime period over ninth-ranked Luke Vaith of Hofstra.
Preston faced a 2-0 deficit late in the first period but scored a reversal with just three seconds remaining to even the score. The sophomore began the second period down and got the escape point midway through the frame, but Vaith had accumulated 1:54 of riding time heading into the third. A quick escape by Vaith maintained his riding time advantage and evened the match at 3-3, and a stalling call against Preston put Vaith in front, 4-3. Preston, however, scored a takedown with just 10 seconds on the clock to force overtime.
In the first sudden victory period, Vaith got in on Preston with a high single but good defense by the Crimson sent the match to tiebreakers. Both wrestlers scored an escape to force the second sudden victory period, where Preston was able to circle around a shot by Vaith to score the winning takedown with just six seconds remaining.
Preston finished the tournament with a 4-0 record, including three wins over opponents seeded in his bracket. For his efforts, Preston was awarded Most Outstanding Wrestler honors, becoming the fourth Crimson wrestler to take home the award and the first since Jesse Jantzen '04 in 2002.
"Todd had a great tournament," commented Jay Weiss, The David G. Bunning '88 Head Coach for Harvard Wrestling, following the tournament’s conclusion. "He proved he can wrestle with anyone in the country and has built some momentum heading into Nationals."
Preston’s EIWA title was the 21st in program history and the 17th under Coach Weiss. A native of Hampton, N.J., Preston was the first member of the Crimson to win a title at Eastern's since J.P. O'Connor '10 in 2010, and the first to win at 141 lbs. since Dustin DeNunzio '98 did so in 1999.
The championship capped off a breakout year for Preston, who was on the mat just 13 times as a freshman after overcoming injuries. The 141-pounder, who was named to the All-Ivy League second team, reached the Round of 12 at NCAA’s two weeks later and finished the year with a team-best 25-10 overall record.