High Admissions Standards Hold Back Wrestling Program

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If one theme has characterized recent Harvard wrestling history, it has been individual success overshadowed by constant injuries that stifle team performance. Watching grappler after grappler go down can undoubtedly be frustrating, but co-captain J.P. O’Connor vented his frustration at a different source over the weekend, suggesting that the problem may not be how many guys go down, but rather how few there are to replace them.

After finishing the dual season a disappointing 2-14-1 with lopsided losses to No. 6 Cornell (44-6) and Columbia (30-15) last Friday and Saturday, O’Connor reflected on the difficulty of keeping pace in the Ivy League.

“When you’re sending out guys who aren’t necessarily your No. 1 guy, it’s tough to be competitive,” O’Connor said. “It’s kind of been a trend since I’ve been here. We don’t have the depth that other schools have. We need a little more backing, by which I mean admissions backing, to be a competitive program in the dual season.”

O’Connor—not often one to mince words—did not hold back here in his implication that the Crimson wrestling team suffers from the school’s stringent standards. Of course, holding talented applicants to rigorous academic standards is nothing new at Harvard, and it goes without saying that Crimson athletics would improve with more relaxed admissions cutoffs. Still, O’Connor’s remarks serve as a reminder that often the small sports are hit hardest, when each rejected potential team member represents significant depth lost from the roster.

Nonetheless, O’Connor and co-captain Louis Caputo make the situation seem far from hopeless. Regardless of the impact that “admissions backing” has on the team’s performance, clearly two of its stars could compete for any wrestling program in the country. As O’Connor (157 lbs.) and Caputo (184) stand at No. 1 and No. 6 in their respective weight classes, Harvard can look forward to two legitimate runs at the national title in March.

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