Season Recap: Wrestling Crowns NCAA Champion

Season Recap: Wrestling Crowns NCAA Champion

Photo of the 2009-10 Crimson Wrestling team courtesy of David Silverman Photography.

On The Harvard wrestling team saw one of its grapplers achieve a life-long dream and leave his mark in the storied tradition of the program, the Crimson battled in each dual meet and tournament competition to wrestle its best and improve its skills.

The Crimson crowned a national champion at the NCAA Championships for the third time in Harvard history, produced an All-American for the 23rd time overall, and finished in the top 50 at the NCAA meet for the 12th time in the last 13 years and in the top 25 for the 12th time in program history. The Crimson had its 20th EIWA Champion, fourth Ivy League Wrestler of the Year and second EIWA Wrestler of the Year.

Senior co-captain J.P. O’Connor, the second Crimson grappler , to earn All-America honors three times, finished his career on top, winning an NCAA title at 157 pounds. O’Connor went undefeated in 2009-10 winning the Binghamton Open, the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and the EIWA Championships along the way. As one of the most successful wrestlers in Harvard history, O’Connor will graduate tied for the program record in career wins with 132, as the only two-time Ivy League Wrestler of the Year at Harvard, the only Crimson grappler to be named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Wrestler of the Year in consecutive seasons. 

The native of Oxford, N.Y., was a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA Championships, outscoring his opponents 51-10 during the tournament. He racked up unanimous first-team All-Ivy League and Academic All-Ivy honors, was named Ivy League co-Wrestler of the Year and  EIWA Wrestler of the Year and was a finalist for the Hodge Trophy, for outstanding wrestler. He became the 16th All-American under Jay Weiss, the David G. Bunning’88 Head Coach for Harvard Wrestling,

Classmate and fellow captain Louis Caputo also etched his name in the record books with his final season in a Crimson singlet.  The Blue Springs, Mo., native finished second at the EIWA Championships and qualified for his fourth NCAA Championships at 184 pounds. Caputo compiled a 23-5 overall record and went 14-0 in dual meets. He earned unanimous first-team All-Ivy League honors for the second year in a row.  Caputo stands third on Harvard’s all-time wins list, having had his hand raised 126 times in his career.

Freshman Steven Keith emerged with a 20-12 record, a third-place finish at the EIWA Championships and a trip to the NCAAs in his rookie campaign. Keith, a 125 pounder, compiled a 10-7 dual record. He missed part of the season with an injury but gained valuable experience on the nation’s biggest stage which will aid him in his quest for a national title and All-America status.

Injuries hampered the Crimson this season, as junior Walter Peppelman, who started off the season with a 10-5 mark, was sidelined with injury as was senior heavyweight Andrew Knapp, who was unable to compete this season and will return in 2010-11 for his final campaign. Several rookies started the season off with impressive performances, only to miss time with injuries of their own. Tony Buxton was 5-6 at 141 pounds, Adam Hogue went 7-6 at 165 pounds and Paul Ligouri was 6-8 at 141 pounds.

Upperclassmen Fermin Mendez, Bryan Panzano and Michale Sadler stepped up to fill in at any weight class needed during the season. Freshmen Nick Brazeau, Chad Eason, Spencer Friedman, David Lalo and sophomores Spencer DeSena and Sean Murphy continued to gain experience on the mat for the Crimson.

The Crimson will have a lot of holes to fill with the departure of Caputo and O’Connor, but will have strong leaders in Peppelman, Knapp and junior Corey Jantzen, who returns from a year absence, and corps of grapplers with a great deal of on-the-mat experience.