Coach Chris Ayres tried to temper expectations before his Princeton wrestling team, ranked No. 16 in the nation, took on Cornell in February.
“We were favored, definitely, but I was thinking, they wrestle us tough, and we have to get this job done,” Ayres said. “But then Pat Glory [’22] said the day before the match, ‘I’ve been waiting 365 days for this.’ That’s how I felt too.”
The wait had been even longer for the wrestling program — 12,412 days, to be exact. Before the invention of hybrid cars, the rise of the World Wide Web, the debut of The Simpsons, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Princeton won its last Ivy League wrestling championship, in 1986.
Princeton believed last year was its chance to dethrone Cornell. The Tigers traveled to face the perennial Ivy champs in Ithaca and suffered a stinging 34–7 loss.
“I wanted to crawl under the bleachers last year in that dual meet up there,” said Ayres, now in his 14th year as the Tigers’ head coach. “I just wanted a little redemption. I knew our guys could get it done.”
On Feb. 9, Princeton won for the first time in 34 years over Cornell, 19–13. The win snapped Cornell’s 17-year Ivy unbeaten streak, which had spanned 92 league matches. The Tigers clinched the Ivy title outright a week later with a 33-6 win over Penn, and they finished the dual-meet season with another win over a top-25 opponent, in-state rival Rutgers, Feb. 23.
“It took so many people to get those victories — the athletes, the coaches, the alumni, and the supporters,” Ayres said. “I felt really grateful to be here and be able to get it done, finally.”
Princeton’s match against Cornell featured wins by Glory, Matthew Kolodzik ’20 (who returned from Olympic training in time for the season’s home stretch), Quincy Monday ’22, Grant Cuomo ’22, and Kevin Parker ’20. Travis Stefanik ’22 clinched the match on a cradle late in the 184-pound bout. The win sparked a wider celebration for Princeton, which became the first school to claim 500 Ivy championships.
“Once we do something, we generally don’t look back,” Ayres said of his team’s steady climb over the last decade. “This was another one of those steps in our program’s development that we needed to hit. From here, we’re really motivated to do more. We think we can win the [Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association meet]; we think we can place top four in NCAAs.”
A version of this story appears in the March 18, 2020, issue of PAW.