When the clock expired for Brett Harner ’17’s 3–2 semifinal victory in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association meet at Jadwin Gym March 6, Princeton coach Chris Ayres let out a quick sigh and congratulated his star 197-pounder.
“I wish he would score some more points so I wouldn’t be so nervous,” Ayres joked. “But I’m really excited. I think he’s ready to win this thing.”
Harner confirmed his coach’s confidence in the final, winning a 14–4 major decision against Army’s Bryce Barnes to become the Tigers’ first EIWA individual champion in 13 years.
Five Tigers earned spots in the NCAA Championships: Harner, who was 34–3 overall this year, including a 5–0 record in Ivy League dual meets; Jordan Laster ’17, an EIWA semifinalist at 141 pounds; Ray O’Donnell ’17, who made a strong run in the EIWA 285-pound consolation bracket; and at-large selections Jonathan Schleifer ’18 and Abram Ayala ’16. Ayala withdrew because of an injury.
Princeton placed fifth in the EIWA team standings, its best finish since 1978, and the orange-and-black cheering section at Jadwin sounded pleased about the program’s continuing rise. “The alumni experience is pretty powerful here,” Ayres said. “Quite frankly, we wouldn’t be here had we not had the support of a lot of the guys in those stands. I’m really appreciative.”