Harner Pins, Harner Wins; EIWA Champ Moves On To NCAA Quarterfinal
His first match was long and dramatic. His second match was short and dramatic.
His third match is Friday morning, and it will come inside Madison Square Garden during the NCAA quarterfinals.
Yes, Brett Harner’s dominant postseason ride continued Thursday with a perfect Day 1 at the NCAA Championships. His first-period pin of 10th-seeded Maxwell Huntley of Michigan will send the seventh-seeded Harner into a quarterfinal showdown Friday morning with 2014 NCAA champion J’den Cox of Missouri. The quarterfinal round begins at 11 am and is available on both ESPNU and ESPN3.
Harner will join Jordan Laster in Day 2 of the NCAA Championships, as Laster scored a 7-3 win in the consolation round to stay in the hunt for All-America honors at 141. As of 10:15 pm, Princeton teammate Ray O’Donnell had not yet wrestled his consolation match. Junior Jonathan Schleifer went 0-2 and was eliminated.
Harner is Princeton’s second quarterfinalist in 13 years, dating back to the senior season of NCAA finalist Greg Parker ’03. Between Parker and Harner, the lone Tiger quarterfinalist was Daniel Kolodzik, who reached the Round of 8 in 2012; Kolodzik dropped both of his Friday matches to fall one victory short of All-America honors.
Harner can become the ninth Princeton wrestler to become an All-American with one win Friday, but his goal is a higher one now — after all, only Bradley Glass ’53 has brought an NCAA Championship back to Princeton.
Harner is still on the path to become the second Tiger to do so.
That path took a few extra seconds in the opener, as Arizona State’s Joshua Dasilveira gave the Tiger fans inside Madison Square Garden major anxiety in the final seconds of regulation. Harner held a lead throughout his match, but the Pac-12 champion scored a takedown just before the whistle to force sudden-victory.
And that’s what it was for Harner. If he was disappointed by the end of regulation, he shook it off in style; he got in on Dasilveira’s legs and drove him to his back, where he picked up four near-fall points for the 13-7 victory.
"I actually thought the score was 7-4 at that point, so I was a little shocked when I saw it was tied," Harner said. "But I really felt I could take him down if I committed to my shot, and that's what I did."
That sent him into the Thursday night match against former Huntley, a 2015 All-America honoree. Harner wasn’t about to have the same type of late dramatics; he took Huntley down on a single and then ran an arm bar up and down the mat until he finally flipped his Michigan opponent over. He clinched his nearfall points, but continued to press until the referee hit the mat and called the fall.
The normally subdued Harner pumped his fist to the crowd after the exciting finish.
"I usually keep it pretty low key, but getting a fall like that, it’s hard not to get excited," he said. "I thought I was a little tight in my first match, so I really wanted to get after it. I wanted to open up and be aggressive. I saw an opportunity to attack on top and I’m not letting this go. Now I can let it fly tomorrow."
Harner faces Cox, who is 30-1 on the season. His lone loss of the season came by disqualification, due to an illegal slam out of bounds. Harner won’t need to go far to find somebody who has wrestled Cox on the highest level; Cox won the 2014 NCAA title 2-1 over Nick Heflin, who is in his first season as Princeton’s volunteer assistant coach.
"Hopefully I can get a little revenge for Heflin tomorrow," Harner said. "It's exciting."
Laster is once again in the hunt All-America honors. One year after reaching the Round of 12 before finally being eliminated, Laster advanced to Friday with a 7-3 victory over Javier Gasca of Michigan State. After Gasca scored a takedown to even the match at 3-3, Laster scored an escape and a takedown to take control in the third period.
Laster dropped his opener to Lehigh's Randy Cruz; those two met four times over the last 12 months, including in the 2015 EIWA final, and Cruz won all four matches in relatively close fashion.
Laster will open Friday against 15th-seeded Brock Zacherl of Clarion.
Schleifer was eliminated Thursday despite a very strong start to his Championships. He scored the first two takedowns of his opening-round match against 11th-seeded Nick Kee, but he couldn't escape in the second period and gave up an escape and a takedown in the third. The riding time was the deciding factor, as Kee advanced 5-4.
Schleifer got a bit unlucky in the consolation round, as third-seeded Blaise Butler of Missouri was upset in his opener. Butler caught Schleifer early in the consolation round to grab a 6-0 lead, and he rode that to a 13-2 win.
Below is a chart of Princeton's All-America wrestlers.
|Warren Taylor '43||1942||136||4th||Michigan State|
|Bradley Glass '53||1951||Unlimited||Champion||Lehigh|
|Bradley Glass '53||1952||191||3rd||Colorado State|
|Emil Deliere '72||1970||190||6th||Northwestern|
|Emil Deliere '72||1972||190||2nd||Maryland|
|John Sefter '78||1977||Unlimited||6th||Oklahoma|
|John Sefter '78||1978||Unlimited||2nd||Maryland|
|Henry Milligan '81||1981||190||6th||Princeton|
|John Orr '85||1984||142||2nd||Meadowlands|
|Dave Crisanti '86||1985||118||8th||Oklahoma City|
|John Orr '85||1985||142||2nd||Oklahoma City|
|Greg Parker '03||2002||174||2nd||Albany|
|Greg Parker '03||2003||184||8th||Kansas City|