Friday, February 8, 2019

Wrestling For A Championship

The wrestling room and the Office of Athletic Communications are located next to each other on E level of Jadwin Gym.

At one point yesterday, TigerBlog walked into the outer area of the OAC just as Chris Ayres, the head wrestling coach, was walking down the hallway. As they saw each other through a glass window, they nodded to each other.

Ayres was thinking "hi." TB was thinking "if anyone ever has deserved a win, it's that guy this weekend."

Ayres and the Tigers are on the road this weekend, at Cornell tomorrow and then at Columbia Sunday. Cornell is home today with Penn.

Princeton is ranked 19th nationally. Cornell is ranked 10th.

Oh, and then there's that other thing. Cornell has won 16 straight Ivy League championships and 86 straight Ivy League matches. Both of those streaks date back to the 2001-02 season.

When Ayres came to Princeton, having a shot at ending those streaks was at once both the furthest thing on his mind (as he started to rebuild the program) and the biggest thing on his mind (since he's been thinking big since Day 1). And now he has what might be the best chance any team has had in all the time that Cornell has been on this long winning streak.

It won't be easy. Cornell is still the favorite.

And yes, there's something incredible about what Ayres has done with Princeton wrestling. Just having the team in the national top 20 and have legitimate NCAA championship contenders is extraordinary enough, especially to those like TB who remember where the program was.

But to have a shot at Cornell? Princeton, Cornell and Penn are all unbeaten in the league so far, and Princeton and Penn wrestle next Saturday in Philadelphia. There are mathematical possibilities that give each of the three at least a share of the title, and should Cornell sweep, that would mean a 17th straight outright championship and perfect league season.

Ayres has taken his team around the country to wrestle the best, and he's brought some of the best to Princeton to wrestle his team. Now his challenge is Cornell, and, well, TB doesn't really have to say much else about that right now.

Other than to say good luck to the Tigers. And to say that he's pulling really hard for Ayres and his team.

The Princeton-Cornell wrestling match is not the only big event for a Princeton team this weekend. There are three other teams, for that matter, who are competing directly for Ivy League titles.

The men's and women's fencing teams are at the Ivy League round robin this weekend at Yale. The Ivy League champions for men and women will be crowned Sunday afternoon, after each team has fenced against each other team, all in a two-day span.

The women's hockey team is also playing this weekend for an Ivy League championship, as the Tigers are at Brown tonight and Yale tomorrow night. One win in either game clinches an outright Ivy title, and even one tie will mean at least a share of the championship.

Also, as TB wrote yesterday, there is also the ECAC race that, with each team with six games to play, has Princeton, Cornell and Clarkson separated by one point.

There is also home men's hockey this weekend as Brown and Yale come to Baker Rink. In fact, you can see everything from this very busy weekend HERE.

Finally, there is the weekend in basketball.

The men's basketball team is the only Ivy unbeaten after each team has played just four games, followed by 3-1 Yale and 3-1 Harvard. The Tigers begin their weekend in New Haven to take on the Bulldogs before heading to Brown tomorrow.

It's a little early in the race to be thinking about Ivy titles and the Ivy tournament. Maybe after the first run through the Ivy weekends, which for Princeton means home games next weekend against Harvard and Dartmouth.

On the women's side, Penn is the only unbeaten at 3-0, while Princeton, Yale and Harvard all have one league loss. The other four teams are all 1-3.

It's too early to say that the Ivy tournament field is set, of course. Princeton is home tonight with Yale (6 tip) and tomorrow at 5 with Brown, and right now it's about getting wins and not worrying about the standings.

Also, there are other reasons to come to Jadwin this weekend for women's hoops. First, it's the alumni weekend for the team, including many members of the 30-0 team from 2015 who will be among those honored tomorrow. Second, it's National Girls and Women In Sports Day, with the pregame clinic set for 4.

Third, it's a chance to see Bella Alarie, who put up 66 points in two games last weekend, including 45 against Columbia last Friday night.

Who wouldn't take advantage of that opportunity?

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