Matthew Kolodzik ’20 had a 16–5 record through Feb. 4.
Beverly Schaefer

It is not with hope or optimism that Matthew Kolodzik ’20 says he wants to be a national champion. It’s with conviction. 

Kolodzik made history last year as the first Princeton freshman to be an All-American. He placed seventh at the NCAA championships at 141 pounds.

“I do take pride in that,” he said, “but it’s a double-edged sword.”

Kolodzik was predicted to finish even higher at nationals — he was seeded fourth. And after ending each of his high school seasons with a championship, he wasn’t ready to settle for seventh place.

Princeton head coach Chris Ayres said every wrestler wants to be a national champ, but with Kolodzik, there’s “more of an expectation. ... There will be disappointment if he doesn’t win it.”

Four Princeton wrestlers have finished second at the NCAA meet: Emil Deliere ’72, John Sefter ’78, John Orr ’85 (twice), and Greg Parker ’03. Bradley Glass ’53 is the only NCAA champion in program history.

In high school, Kolodzik won a state championship his freshman year at the Miami Valley School in Dayton, Ohio, even though the school had no wrestling team. His father, Paul, would drive him 45 minutes to practice at national powerhouse St. Paris Graham. The next year, Kolodzik transferred to St. Paris Graham’s biggest rival, No. 1-ranked Blair Academy in northern New Jersey, where he won three straight national prep championships.

“That was a great environment for me,” Kolodzik said. “I really thrived. By the time I got to college, I knew what the challenges were — not all of them, but I knew where I wanted to go in terms of my wrestling. I knew that it was necessary to balance that with my academic aspirations.”

A mechanical and aerospace engineering major, Kolodzik followed his brother, Daniel Kolodzik ’12, to Princeton. Daniel was Ayres’ first high-level recruit, and Matthew is the most highly-touted wrestler to arrive on the coach’s watch. 

High school success doesn’t always translate to the college ranks, but Kolodzik was as good as advertised. He went 30-4, won the EIWA championship, and became just the second Princeton wrestler to be named Ivy League Rookie of the Year.

Last season, Kolodzik had to lose weight to wrestle at 141. He also closed the season with a shoulder injury, which made nationals all the more difficult. This year, he said, he feels healthier wrestling in the 149-pound weight class. Always a clutch finisher, he’s training to dominate opponents earlier in his bouts — an approach that he’ll put to the test this month at the EIWA Championships.

For the record

This story has been corrected to include John Sefter ’78, an NCAA runner-up in 1978.