For a split second, it seemed Josef Johnson was poised to break the hearts of Tiger Nation. Perhaps this team was too young, perhaps it just wasn't ready for the moment.
Fortunately, a split second later, the dream was alive and well.
Two weeks, two heart-stopping matches, and two New Jersey state champions who posted dramatic victories to keep Princeton perfect in the Ivy League race. One week after freshman Pat D'Arcy's decision to clinch a 19-15 win over Penn, sophomore Jonathan Schleifer ducked under a takedown attempt in overtime and scored a 3-1 victory to lead Princeton to a 19-16 win over Harvard.
Schleifer's win evened the team score at 16-16, and set up senior Abram Ayala to finish the job. The two-time NCAA qualifier dominated the legs of Michael Mocco for four takedowns en route to a clinching 19-16 victory in Boston.
"I remember fighting really hard to not give up position, and to come out on top," Schleifer said.
Princeton ended up on top, but it was a wild journey getting there. The Tigers won the first three matches of the day, starting with a 6-4 victory for 11th-ranked Brett Harner. Junior heavyweight Ray O'Donnell followed his Penn win with a 5-0 victoryover Angus Cowell, and D'Arcy continued his strong rookie season with a 2-1 victory at 125; the winning point for D'Arcy came via riding time, as he controlled Nolan Hellickson for the majority of the second period.
"Pat really showed how tough he can be," Schleifer said. "He stayed offensive and kept good position the entire match despite the high stakes and close score."
The Princeton momentum was short-lived, as Harvard bounced back with three wins of its own. A pin at 133 and a major decision by former All-American Todd Preston at 141 set up a 3-2 win for Patrick Hogan and a 13-9 Crimson lead.
Princeton senior Adam Krop provided a much-needed 12-0 major decision at 157. He scored a takedown in the first and followed with four back points to grab control, and he never let up the rest of the match.
Harvard reclaimed the lead when 20th-ranked Devon Gobbo scored a 10-4 decision; at that point, Harvard led 16-13 and needed only one more win to grab the team victory.
Schleifer was up first, and he and Johnson went seven minutes without a takedown. That set up the overtime and the dramatic final takedown, which you can see above. That win, plus Ayala's clincher, sends Princeton into a Super Sunday showdown at Brown (1 pm, Ivy League Digital Network) with a chance to keep the dreams of a Championship Saturday against Cornell alive.
Princeton 19, Harvard 16
197: No. 11 Brett Harner (P) dec. Josh Popple (H), 6-4, 3-0
285: Ray O'Donnell (P) dec. Angus Cowell (H), 5-0, 6-0
125: Pat D'Arcy (P) dec. Nolan Hellickson (H), 2-1, 9-0
133: Jeffrey Ott (H) pinned Noah Ajram (P), 4:40, 9-6
141: No. 9 Todd Preston (H) major dec. Jordan Laster (P), 9-1, 9-10
149: Patrick Hogan (H) dec. Chris Perez (P), 3-2, 9-13
157: Adam Krop (P) major dec. Tyler Tarsi (H), 12-0, 13-13
165: No. 20 Devon Gobbo (H) dec. Judd Ziegler (P), 10-4, 13-16
174: No. 16 Jonathan Schleifer (P) dec. Josef Johnson (H) SV-1, 3-1, 16-16
184: Abram Ayala (P) dec. Michael Mocco (H), 9-4, 19-16