When junior Gabe Dean took the mat on Sunday, no one imagined that within 30 seconds, he would earn a fall that would secure the Cornell wrestling team’s 10th straight EIWA title. Dean and the other first place finishers, senior Nahshon Garrett and juniors Brian Realbuto and Dylan Palacio, all had incredibly strong weekends, dominating in their respective weight classes and earning themselves spots in the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.
“Gabe Dean walked onto the mat in the finals and within 30 seconds, slammed his opponent to his back, earning the fall and thus dashing all of Lehigh’s hopes of stopping our Eastern championship run at nine,” said head coach Robert Koll.
Along with Dean, Garrett, Palacio and Realbuto, freshmen Jeramy Sweany and Joe Galasso and seniors Owen Scott and Duke Pickett earned themselves a place in the upcoming NCAA tournament. While qualifying eight of 10 wrestlers on a given team is quite a feat, Koll is not totally content with the weekend’s results.
“I am pleased to qualify eight for the NCAA tournament but we had the ability of qualifying all 10 so I am not completely satisfied,” Koll said.
However, Koll is still happy with the results overall and is particularly pleased with Galasso and Sweany’s performances. According to Koll, they both have been hot and cold all season but he said that it is “great to see them peaking at the right time.”
Koll, who has been coaching the Red for 22 seasons now, has been able to transform the wrestling team into one of consistency, talent and strength. While his strong coaching ability has led to numerous wins and overall success for Cornell, it has also contributed to a fairly large fan base for the wrestling program. Just over 61,000 people like Cornell Wrestling on Facebook and a little over 18,000 followers on Twitter.
Koll explained that while the win this weekend was exciting for his team, it is also a big win for all of the fans and alumni following the Red.
“Considering some of our team was eight years old when the [EIWA winning] streak started, I’m not sure they really appreciate the significance of the accomplishment,” Koll said. “The people who it means the most to are our alumni and fans.”
In the weeks to come, the eight NCAA qualifiers will focus on tightening up their wrestling before the tournament. The NCAA tournament, held at Madison Square Garden, is one the main focuses for the Red each year, as the men’s whole season is built around qualifying wrestlers and making sure that all of the wrestlers are in true fighting shape when the tournament approaches. Koll noted that he is not worried about keeping his wrestlers in line the next two weeks.
“I really don’t have to worry about keeping the team focused at this point of the season. The entire season has been built around being ready for the NCAA tournament. If I had wrestlers who had to motivated to stay focused at this point in the season, those individuals wouldn’t have qualified for the NCAA tournament.”