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Season Preview: Depth and Experience Set to Take Wrestling to Next Level

Photo of the 2009-10 Harvard wrestling team courtesy of DSPICS.com.

The David G. Bunning ’88 Head Coach for Harvard Wrestling Jay Weiss is excited for the 2009-10 season. With a pair of two-time All-Americans, four battle tested sophomores and a trio of seniors with three years of starting experience returning and nine eager freshmen, why wouldn’t he be?

Weiss added more than just freshmen to his wrestling family this season as he welcomed Sean Harrington to his coaching staff. “I’m definitely excited about the group of wrestlers and coaches we have right now,” Weiss said. “Sean brings a great deal of energy to the wrestling room. His enthusiasm and his past experiences combined with the coaching strengths of Pat Owen [third season] and Muzzafar Abdurakhmanov [second season] will go a long way in helping our team get to the next level.”

Also, helping the Crimson to new heights are senior co-captains Louis Caputo and J.P. O’Connor, who will lead the squad on and off the mat. The pair are two-time All-Americans with Caputo earning the honor in 2007 and 2009 and O’Connor taking home the award in 2007 and 2008. Caputo won 34 matches last season and became the fifth Harvard wrestler to win 100 career matches. He finished eighth at the 2009 NCAA Championships at 184 pounds after taking third at the EIWA Championships.

O’Connor won 32 matches last season at 157 pounds and advanced to the round of 12 at the NCAA Championships for the third time in his career. He is a three-time EIWA Championship finalist and three-time first-team All-Ivy League recipient. O’Connor is three victories away from 100 career wins.

Harvard has more depth on the roster this year than in the past as Weiss has brought in back-to-back classes that are not only talented, but hard-working and dedicated to their sport. The Crimson will be able to fill several holes left by graduation and injury.

In the lower weight classes, the Crimson will look for junior Fermin Mendez and freshmen Steven Keith, Chad Eason, Paul Liguori and Anthony Buxton to compete at 125, 133 and 141 pounds. The newcomers have combined for four state titles and numerous all-conference and all-district awards.

O’Connor, sophomore Walter Peppelman, junior Michael Sadler and newcomers Nick Brazeau, Jackson Salovarra, Adam Hogue and Kyle Roy will grapple at 149, 157 and 165 pounds. Peppelman posted 21 victories at 149 pounds last winter. He won seven straight and went five matches without allowing a point. Sadler suited up 18 times for the Crimson a year ago splitting time at 165 and 174 pounds. Hogue, a national prep champion and three-time National Prep All-American, should make an immediate impact.

Caputo, sophomore Bryan Panzano, junior Andy Olsen and newcomer David Lalo will see time at 174 and 184 pounds. Panzano wrestled in 16 matches for the Crimson last season and will compete with Lalo for the starting spot. Olsen, who saw limited time on the mat due to injury, should be a force to reckon with if he can stay healthy.

Sophomores Sean Murphy and Spencer DeSena and senior Andrew Knapp will cover 197 pounds and heavyweight for the Crimson. Murphy competed in 20 matches at 197 last year and picked up his first collegiate pin. DeSena wrestled nine times for the Crimson, improving each time he stepped on the mat. Knapp won seven matches at heavyweight and knocked off the fifth-seeded Mike Spring of Army at the EIWA Championship, where he had his best tournament of the season.

Weiss has put together another challenging dual and tournament schedule to prepare the Crimson for what it refers to as the “March Matness”. Harvard opens the season at the Binghamton Open on Nov. 15 and returns to the Bearcats’ arena the following week to take on nationally ranked Penn State and Northern Iowa. The Crimson travels to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and the Midlands Championships in December and takes on Ivy League and EIWA foes in January and February. The team opens up the month of March at the EIWA Championships and closes out the season at the NCAA Championships in Obama, Neb.

“We have raised our level of competition over the last few years and this year is no exception,” Weiss added. “I am anxious to see how we perform in the second half with the change in the academic calendar. We are usually coming out of exams at the end of January and in the past that has affected our performance. I think these changes will benefit our training cycle so we can be more prepared for the end of the year.”