Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

O’Connor the Great

March 10, 2010

I have to admit, before this year I had never seen any wrestling matches in my life, live or on television. Sure, I had seen WWE wrestling with the dramatic storylines and fighting that captivated me as a child. But watching co-captain J.P. O’Connor and the other Harvard wrestlers for the first time was a new experience that suddenly made me interested in the sport.

This past weekend, O’Connor stepped onto the mat as the favorite at the EIWA Championships at Lehigh. He had been to the finals each of the last three years, but fell in the championship match every time, despite earning All-American honors in two of those seasons. This time around, as the No. 1 wrestler in the country at 157 pounds and with a 29-0 record on the season, O’Connor came into the final as the clear favorite. The question still remained, though, if he would be able to pull off the win that had eluded him for three years. Would he be able to do what only two other Harvard wrestlers in his weight class had done before?

O’Connor put all of the questions to rest and fought past whatever nerves he had to take the championship match in a 3-1 decision against Navy’s Bryce Saddoris, the No. 3 seed. Along with two of his other teammates, co-captain Louis Caputo and freshman Steven Keith, the senior qualified for the NCAA Championships at the end of this month. I haven’t heard much talk about his accomplishments on campus and there are not full crowds at the matches, but it’s a shame that more students did not get to see O’Connor in his final year of action in a Crimson singlet. Sure, it’s not exactly like the WWE wrestling from my childhood, but there is plenty of drama in watching the No .1 wrestler at 157 pounds go after a title he’s been seeking for years and cap off Harvard’s second undefeated season in its history. Now, if only these storylines headlined HBO specials, Crimson wrestling and its stars might get the attention they deserve.

High Admissions Standards Hold Back Wrestling Program

February 25, 2010

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.