Preston scored a takedown in sudden victory to secure his first EIWA Championship and earn Most Outstanding Wrestler (Hunter Martin/EIWA).
PHILADELPHIA – In what may go down as one of the most exciting finals matches in recent memory, 141-pounder Todd Preston became Harvard wrestling's 21st EIWA Champion with an 8-6 victory in a second sudden victory overtime period over ninth-ranked Luke Vaith of Hofstra.
Preston faced a 2-0 deficit late in the first period but scored a reversal with just three seconds remaining to even the score. Preston began the second period down and got the escape point midway through the frame, but Vaith had accumulated 1:54 of riding time heading into the third. A quick escape by Vaith maintained his riding time advantage and evened the match at 3-3, and a stalling call against Preston put Vaith in front, 4-3. Preston, however, scored a takedown with just 10 seconds on the clock to force overtime.
In the first sudden victory period, Vaith got in on Preston with a high single but good defense by the Crimson sent the match to tiebreakers. Both wrestlers scored an escape to force the second sudden victory period, where Preston was able to circle around a shot by Vaith to score the winning takedown with just six seconds remaining.
Preston finished the tournament with a 4-0 record including three wins over opponents seeded in his bracket. For his efforts, Preston was awarded Most Outstanding Wrestler honors, becoming the fourth Crimson wrestler to take home the award and the first since Jesse Jantzen '04 in 2002.
"Todd had a great tournament," commented Jay Weiss, The David G. Bunning '88 Head Coach for Harvard Wrestling. "He proved he can wrestle with anyone in the country and has built some momentum heading into Nationals."
Preston is now the 21st EIWA Champion in program history and the 17th to win a title under Coach Weiss. Preston is the first Crimson to win a title at Eastern's since J.P. O'Connor '10 in 2010, and the first to win at 141 lbs. since Dustin DeNunzio '98 did so in 1999.
The championship caps off a breakout year for Preston who was on the mat just 13 times last season after overcoming injuries. The sophomore, who was named to the All-Ivy League second team, boasts a team-best 23-8 overall record and has now defeated three nationally ranked opponents, including two who were ranked in the top 10 at the time. Preston's performance has earned him a trip to the NCAA Championships in two weeks, where he will be competing for the first time.
Harvard also saw four other individuals reach the podium, with sixth-place finishes for 184-pounder Cameron Croy, 165-pounder Devon Gobbo and 133-pounder Jeffrey Ott, and a seventh-place showing for heavyweight David Ng.
Croy closed his career with a fourth straight appearance on the podium. He posted three victories on day one of the tournament to reach the semifinals, including upsets over fourth-seeded Ryan Tompkins of Army, 5-2, and fifth seeded Brett Harner of Princeton, 5-1 TB. The senior co-captain previously placed eighth in 2013 at 174 lbs., sixth in 2012 at 184 lbs. and seventh in 2011 at 184 lbs.
Gobbo (7th, 2013), Ott (5th, 2013) and Ng (8th, 2013) are each now two-time placewinners and will be returning to the Crimson lineup next season.
"This was an extremely tough tournament with 18 teams, individuals really had to be on their game" said Weiss. "We had five wrestlers out perform their seeds, and three individuals who weren't seeded reached the podium. Eight of the individuals who wrestled here will be returning to our lineup next year, so I think this team really has something to build on going forward."
Harvard finished the tournament in ninth place of the team standings with a total of 55.5 points, marking the fourth straight year the Crimson has placed in the top 10. Harvard was the third-highest finishing team from the Ivy League, trailing only team champion Cornell and fifth-place Columbia.