There are no bronzed muscles. No fake blood or grandstanding body slams.But there is panting — lots of it. And beneath the cheers inside the Malkin Athletic Center, soft shoes tapping the mat belie the pretzel-tied arms and writhing struggle of bodies at war.This is not arena schmaltz. Harvard wrestlers are doing the unthinkable — they’re actually wrestling.Pitted against Rutgers University on Jan. 7, the Crimson showed how unafraid — and undeterred — they were after three early-season losses. Of the three victories of the afternoon, lightweight Steven Keith’s ’13 (125 lbs.) takedown of Rutgers’ Joe Lange was one of the most exciting.“I think that my size is a boon because I am more agile. I am quicker on my feet and more flexible and fluid in my wrestling,” said Keith, an economics concentrator. “I know that I can compete with any 125-pounder in the nation.”Shay Warren ’13 (133 lbs.) and nationally ranked Walter Peppelman ’12 (157 lbs.) also picked up wins against Rutgers, and, later the same day, when the Crimson took on the University of Maryland, Keith and Peppelman defeated their mid-Atlantic opponents. Ian Roy ’14 (174 lbs.) also won his bout against Alex Pagnotta.Coach Jay Weiss is assured with his wrestlers, but stresses that it is a young team.“When they realize how good they are, it will be fun,” he said, noting that Keith, Peppelman, Corey Jantzen ’12, and Andrew Knapp ’11 are key wrestlers this season.“Corey is one of the best wrestlers I have been around. He is so good in so many positions. He’s very strong and works harder than anyone I have ever seen. Walter is a tremendous leader. He’s very passionate about his teammates and shows it. He’s finally got some big wins this year and now is ranked in the top 10 in his weight class, so his confidence is very high right now,” said Weiss.“Andrew is the heart and soul of this team. He’s coming off a knee injury that sidelined him during his senior year. He came back for one more semester to accomplish his goals and to be with his teammates. Steven had a big year last year qualifying for the NCAA Championships as a freshman; he’s got a strong desire and he’s a great leader.”Weiss has a month left to prepare his team for the EIWA Championships in March, and after that, the NCAA tournament.“At the beginning of the year we talked about ‘cutting it in half,’” said Weiss. “The past few years we have been devastated with injuries and finished 11th in the 2010 EIWA Championships. We feel we can do so much better this year so we want to cut that in half.”Said Keith: “I’ve lost close matches to some of the top wrestlers in the country without wrestling my best, so I’m confident that come the EIWA, I can win. I am trying to improve many things technically, but most importantly I am working to improve myself mentally.“I like that wrestling is an individual sport and that I am in control of everything. I determine how hard I work and it is me alone that wins or loses. I am solely responsible for how I perform — there is no one else to blame.”Wrestling is more than a sport, stressed Weiss. It’s about the bigger picture.“What we do in wrestling will teach us life lessons. I constantly tell our athletes that what they are going through is nothing like what life will throw their way — but we will be better prepared,” he said.“We try to get better each time we’re on the mat, whether it be practice or competition. I’m always confident things will turn for the better. Why not? I have a saying on my desk that reads, ‘Mundi ex igne factus est,’ which means ‘the world is made of fire.’“It’s a reminder that suffering and struggle are the ways to truth, to understanding … We learn the best through adverse situations. So yes, I know we will turn things around. I truly believe in each and every one of them. It’s part of the process, and we will all be better because of it.”For a schedule of upcoming matches.
When it needed it most, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team found success from one of its rising stars.Sophomore forward Brittany Ammerman assisted on two crucial goals for the Badgers (24-2-2) this past weekend against Bemidji State, giving the team two more victories and a series sweep.While usually not a top scorer for UW, Ammerman, with just four goals this season, has made a big impact by creating opportunities for teammates to knock the puck in.“I had the mentality of just working hard and doing the little things for the team and hoping good would come out of it,” Ammerman said. “To get those assists, Friday night especially, built confidence in Saturday’s game.”Saturday night, Ammerman found senior forward and linemate Hilary Knight charging towards the goal. After breaking away from the defender, she slid the puck to Knight who then buried it in the back of the net, giving the Badgers their 1-0 victory.“There is a lot that comes into play when you are scoring a goal; her pass last Saturday night was amazing. It was a nice backhander,” Knight said. “You couldn’t really ask for more.”Although her goal count is low, Ammerman is just one assist away from matching the 12 she racked up last year, an impressive feat considering the post-season is still a month away.With many players on the team taking on the scoring role, the Badgers need players like Ammerman to consistently make the plays with scoring possibilities.Not having scored as many goals can make a player lose confidence, but Ammerman has embraced her ability to contribute to her team in other, but equally important, ways.“I don’t think I am in a scoring slump at all. Some people might say I am, but every year your role changes as a player, and each team needs people to do different things, not just score,” Ammerman said.Also contributing to her success is the training she has done in the past year at U.S. national team camps, working on her game and conditioning over the summer. With a national championship already attained, her goal remains the same: to continue bringing the Badgers success.Ammerman, along with Knight and sophomore forward Madison Packer, are stepping up big as Wisconsin’s second line. Packer scored Friday night’s overtime goal off a pass across the front of the net by Ammerman, a pass strong enough that Bemidji goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova could not adjust to in time.The key goal scoring plays, along with other opportunities by the line in both games, add depth to Wisconsin, a team that has already found success in its first line. This has head coach Mark Johnson hopeful as he looks ahead to the rest of the season.“Anytime you get secondary scoring and production from people other than the top line, it makes us that much better and even stronger,” Johnson said. “Hopefully that will continue to happen, but the big thing is to continue to create these opportunities because usually something is going to happen.”With injured players for UW returning to the ice, Ammerman, Knight and Packer have been able to focus on improving as a line for the past few weeks. At practices, they continue to communicate on how to connect better, which is successfully transferring to games.“[Knight] was in a little bit of a cold streak in terms of goals, but I think just being able to work through that and in practice talking to each other about what we need to do to made it better,” Ammerman said. “Being able to move the puck was really the difference in this last stretch.”With just three regular season series left, Wisconsin needs Ammerman to build off what she has accomplished this past weekend if she wants to keep the dream of another national championship alive.Johnson said he sees the potential of Ammerman as a key member of his dominating team and believes her recent success will propel her moving forward.“It is a learning opportunity,” Johnson said. “That is what we have practices for, and she will continue to work, and the momentum she has built the last few games is something to build on.”