It’s not over yet. Despite winning a 15th straight Ivy League title and ending the dual meet season in dominant fashion with an eight-match win streak, Cornell wrestling still has work left to do. The Red (13-2, 5-0 Ivy) will look for an 11th consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championship and attempt to qualify its wrestlers for the NCAA Championships.
Ithaca has been home to the EIWA trophy for the past 10 years — the longest streak in the more than 100 year history of the tournament. Head coach Rob Koll and the Red expect that trophy to come home with them once more.
“The culture is such that anything less than a championship will be a disappointment,” Koll said.
It may seem that the No. 7 Red should be an easy favorite given that the squad has dominated the meet for the last decade, but this will not be the case this weekend at Bucknell, the site of the 2017 tournament. The team understands that there is no room for complacency.
“This is the first time in many years that we don’t head into the Eastern Championships as the prohibitive favorite,” Koll said. “Lehigh will be the team to beat and we need everyone to wrestle at their best if we hope to bring home our 11th consecutive EIWA Championship.”
No. 11 Lehigh has been EIWA runner-up in six of the last eight years. Cornell put up 170.5 points in the 2016 EIWA Championship to slightly outperform Lehigh at 160. Cornell has also seen Lehigh earlier this year.
On Jan. 21, the Red edged out Lehigh, 21-20, on its rival’s home mat. Lehigh will give the Red a run for its money this weekend in the Mountain Hawk’s home state of Pennsylvania. Cornell welcomed No. 6 Ohio State for the NWCA National Duals Championship Series — where Big Ten teams wrestled non-Big Ten teams — on Feb. 19 to close out the regular season. The Red came away with a tight 19-18 upset, including a win by senior Brian Realbuto (174) over then No. 1 Bo Jordan. The Red now enters championship weekend with two No. 1 wrestlers in Realbuto and Gabe Dean (184).
In addition to those two, Cornell has a promising lineup from the 125 to the heavyweight class — eight other wrestlers will be competing to punch their tickets to St. Louis for the NCAA Championships.
“I expect everyone to succeed,” Koll said. “Obviously we won’t have 10 champions but I would, and should be, the last person to cast doubts on one or more of my wrestlers’ ability to win.”
Despite a season filled with injuries, the Red have everyone they could hope for in the lineup.
“At this point in the season, barring a note from a mortician, you aren’t permitted to be hurt,” Koll said jokingly. “They have all summer to heal.”
A total of 43 NCAA Championship bids will be awarded according to placement in the EIWA tournament. The Red has placed in the top five of the NCAA Championship in six of the last eight season and will need a strong showing across the board this weekend to ensure success in St. Louis.
The 113th EIWA championship tournament will take place at the Sojka Pavilion in Lewisburg, Pa. The two-day meet will begin Friday, March 3.