As head coach Rob Koll celebrated his birthday on Wednesday, his wrestlers hope they can give him a belated birthday present by putting in strong performances in their first official tournament of the season, when they host the Body Bar Invitational at Newman Arena tomorrow.
The all-day tournament will provide a number of difficult challenges for the preseason No.12 in a field which includes No. 6 Michigan and No. 19 Edinboro.
“This is a great opportunity for a lot of guys to go against some national talent,” said senior co-captain Tyler Baier. “Everyone on our team, not just starters, [are] all going to have to compete against a lot of nationally ranked guys.”
Many individuals of the team were able to get some matches in last weekend at the Cortland Open, as warmup preparation for tomorrow’s tournament. According to Baier, the results were mixed as some guys were able to step up while others did not wrestle as well.
Koll, who said he had some wrestlers who lost more matches at Cortland than they ever had during parts of their high school careers, said that those who had a rude wake-up call will have to find a way to regroup and refocus for tomorrow.
“I think we’ll do really well with the kids we have,” Koll said. “We’ve got some great leadership and the young kids, I think needed one tournament under their belt and now they’ve got that, they’re no excuses now.”
While the Red has picked up a few injuries, it will be ready for a tournament that it has never lost. But with opponents such as Michigan and Edinboro, as well as the likely prospect of Red wrestlers facing tough individual opponents from teams including Army, The Citadel, Virginia and Drexel, Cornell faces a difficult battle.
All-American junior co-captain No. 2 Dustin Manotti could potentially face the most difficult individual test in the 149-pound division, where he could take on No. 3 Phillip Simpson from Army. While Manotti, a two-time Body Bar champion, has faced Simpson before and knows what to expect from the Army wrestler, he is taking each match one at a time.
“I know what [Simpson] does, so I know what to look for.” Manotti said. “Other than that, I’m going to take it like any other match.”
Former National Champion and three-time All-American Travis Lee will also face tough competition in the field. The senior co-captain and preseason number one, who won the competition at 133 last year, might face off against Edinboro wrestler No. 5 Shawn Bunch, the 2002 Body Bar champion. At 184-pounds, No. 10 Baier might have the toughest bracket, with four nationally-ranked wrestlers in the draw.
With this year’s team deep in talent, many Red wrestlers will be looking forward to put in strong performances for starting positions and a spot for the team’s first road trip to the Las Vegas Invitational in two weeks. According to Baier, the Body Bar will also help more experienced wrestlers gauge where they are, and what they need to work on in the ring.
“[ For] a lot of these guys, they’re fighting for starting spots in a lot of our weight classes,” Baier said. “This tournament is going to be a deciding factor in who is going to Las Vegas. It’s going to be a big motivation just for guys to step up — we’ll see who does and we’ll see who doesn’t.”
Although the Red won the Body Bar by 15 points over Edinboro last year, Koll is more concerned about how his individual wrestlers perform and their match preparation. For his starters, Koll said these matches have national implications, but he is confident that his guys will rise to the challenge.
“We always seem to wrestle well at this tournament and I expect nothing less this year,” Koll said.
The tournament will begin tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. and will go on throughout the day.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor