After graduating 10 wrestlers from the class of 2000, head coach Rob Koll’s troops feature an unusually large group of fresh faces this winter. With freshmen or sophomores expected to start in six of the 10 weight classes, Cornell will have one of the younger teams in the East.
Make no mistake, though, the seniors are still an integral part of the club and are expected to make a serious impact on both the Big Red and the opposition.
Leading the way are senior tri-captains Leo Urbinelli and Corey Anderson. Urbinelli, who is in the 157-pound weight class, was last year’s EIWA runner-up and qualified for nationals. He missed achieving All-American status by one match, losing in sudden-death overtime.
“I don’t think I’m the type of guy who’s going to overpower anybody, but I try to rely on technique and quickness, maybe outsmart the guy, out-endure,” Urbinelli remarked. “I look forward to being Eastern champ, and national champ. I have a good shot to make the national finals.”
Also at Urbinelli’s weight is senior Alex Berman, who is moving up after wrestling at 149 pounds a year ago. Berman finished fourth in the East last year, and will be used to spell Urbinelli occasionally.
“Certainly, he has the ability to start,” head coach Rob Koll said of Berman.
Seniors Chris Gafner and Rich DeSoto enter the season competing for the starting slot at 184 pounds. Gafner finished third in the New York Collegiate Championship as well as fourth at the Ivy Kickoff last season, while DeSoto is a fifth-year senior who moved up from 174. DeSoto has missed parts of the last two seasons due to injuries, and is coming back from shoulder and back surgery.
Anderson, ranked 10th in the country, will be defending his Eastern title this season at 197 pounds after beginning last season as a backup. He transferred to Cornell from Brigham Young University after his sophomore year, and midway through last year stepped into the lineup after injuries opened up a spot. Anderson subsequently tore through the EIWA tournament — defeating the No. 12 wrestler in the country along the way — and then won two matches at nationals as well.
At 174 pounds, senior Jim Stanec brings back a lot of experience to the team as well. He competed primarily at 165 a year ago, wrestling in 31 matches, and is poised for a career season in 2000-01.
Rounding out the senior class is Sean Doyle, who will be wrestling at 133 this winter. Last season, Doyle finished fourth in the EIWA championships, and is the favorite this year.
The hallmark of the class of 2001, according to Urbinelli, is its diversity and determination. All sorts of career paths are represented in this year’s senior class.
“Corey’s 25, got a wife and kid, [he’s] Mormon, been to a different school, transferred in. I’m a fifth year senior, I’ve been here for a ton of years. Then we’ve got a few guys who’ve worked really hard for two, three years to break into the lineup and now they’re finally starting for us as seniors,” Urbinelli observed. “The senior class is a testament to ‘hard work will pay off.’ A lot of guys haven’t started, and you’ve got guys popping in the lineup, getting a chance finally.”
The senior class is also a group of excellent role models for the younger Red wrestlers, according to Koll. Since several of them are starting for the first time, they’ll be able to counsel the newcomers who aren’t in the lineup.
“Be positive, motivate kids, and the other thing a senior can do probably better than maybe a sophomore is when kids are struggling, say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there,'” Koll noted.
“When freshmen start to struggle and they see other things out there that may be more enjoyable, things that if you do, you’re probably not going to be as successful as a wrestler,” he continued. [The seniors] can tell them the tradeoff is worth it.”
Archived article by Alex Fineman