Chris Ayres understands the mystique of Leeman-Turner Arena better than most. He's won there as a wrestler, and he's lost there as a coach. Yet there he stood, with the biggest win of his 13-year coaching career in the balance, at total ease while his guy trailed.
Why? Because his guy was Patrick Brucki.
Minutes after classmate Dale Tiongson pulled out a victory he'll remember for a lifetime, Brucki put the finishing touches on Princeton's biggest team win in decades. The 7th-ranked 197-pounder remained undefeated with a 7-4 win over 15th-ranked Jake Jakobsen to clinch Princeton's first road win ever at Lehigh.
It was also the first Princeton victory in this series since 1968 (Lehigh leads it 54-6-1 at this point), and it was the first Top-10 win since Ayres came from the Mountain Hawks coaching staff to try and build something special at Princeton.
"I was proud of every single guy," Ayres said afterwards. "Even when we lost, we wrestled our best matches. Quincy Monday was great. Marshall Keller was great. They just all wrestled like men.
"I live for these moments where the program makes the big jump," Ayres added. "I think about everybody who has put time, effort and finances into this program. I've always felt like I had a great support group, and I feel like I work for them. It's an amazing moment for sure."
Though it began with a pair of ranked wins early, the moment really began to take shape when Tiongson took the mat against the 11th-ranked wrestler in the nation, Cole Walter. Tiongson led 3-2 in the third period, one in which he was the aggressor throughout, when he fended off a shot and circled behind Walter for a critical takedown in a 5-3 win.
"Dale's match was especially awesome," Ayres said. "I told the guys before the match that you have to attack more than them. They fed off each other. I told Dale he had to have composure, and I could see at one point when he was all-in. He smelled blood in the third, and he took advantage of it. There's a moment it clicked for him, and it just changes you as a wrestler."
That win, combined with technical falls for both #14 Patrick Glory and #1 Matthew Kolodzik, gave Princeton a 13-10 lead with four matches to go. Freshman Travis Stefanik, a former state champion from the Lehigh Valley area (Nazareth High), pushed #7 Jordan Kutler throughout, though a late takedown sealed a 5-0 Lehigh win to even the match again.
Junior Kevin Parker, who gave a hint of a potential breakout season when he won the Tiger Open earlier this month, put Princeton on the brink of a major upset with a technical fall at 184, and then Brucki took the mat against 15th-ranked Jake Jakobsen. Brucki trailed 1-0 after he was called for hitting Jakobsen in the face, but he responded with a trio of takedowns in the final two periods to ignite a celebration within both the team and among those who dreamed of bringing Princeton back into the Top 25 â€" a dream that should be realized next week.
Princeton is now 2-2, with its two losses coming on the road to #3 Iowa and #11 Wisconsin, the latter of which came down to the final match. The Tigers will try for another Top-15 road win next week when they travel to #13 Virginia Tech; the Tigers will also face Virginia over the weekend.
125 - #14 Patrick Glory (Princeton) tech fall Luke Resnick (Lehigh) 17-2, 5:08
133 - Brandon Paetzell (Lehigh) major dec. Jonathan Gomez (Princeton) 16-8
141 - Ryan Pomrinca (Lehigh) dec. Marshall Keller (Princeton) 8-7
149 - #1 Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton) tech fall Jimmy Hoffman (Lehigh) 17-1, 6:03
157 - Josh Humphreys (Lehigh) dec. Quincy Monday (Princeton) 5-4
165 - Dale Tiongson (Princeton) dec. #11 Cole Walter (Lehigh) 5-3
174 - #7 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) dec. Travis Stefanik (Princeton) 5-0
184 - Kevin Parker (Princeton) tech fall Chase Gallik (Lehigh) 23-8, 5:12
197 - #7 Patrick Brucki (Princeton) dec. #15 Jake Jakobsen (Lehigh) 7-4
285 - #6 Jordan Wood (Lehigh) Fall Obinna Ajah (Princeton) 1:24