Claiming its largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent since 2014, No. 19 Cornell wrestling topped No. 13 Northern Iowa, 30-10, to begin the 2017-18 season with plenty to be happy about.
Sophomore Chaz Tucker (133) put the victory in motion with a second period fall in the first match of the evening, earning his team a quick six points. It was the Red’s first of three falls on the evening.
In what was a tough first matchup against UNI, the youthful core of Cornell managed to start their collegiate wrestling careers on the right foot. All three freshman won their matches.
“I am always nervous the first time freshman, or first time starters, represent Cornell,” said head coach Rob Koll. “Tonight we had wrestlers who fit that bill.”
Hoping to make a name for himself like his brother, two-time NCAA Champion Gabe Dean ’17, No. 17 freshman Max Dean (184) upset No. 4 Drew Foster of UNI by decision, 9-7.
“I’m confident our ‘youngsters’ will be just fine,” Koll said. “As far as who was most impressive, obviously Dean was outstanding.”
Earlier on, freshman Yianni Diakomihalis, ranked No. 13 at 141 pounds, claimed another Cornell victory over a ranked wrestler. Diakomihalis won by decision over No. 14 Josh Alber, 5-2.
The last of the freshmen was Ben Darmstadt at 197 pounds, who triumphed over the Panthers’ Jacob Holschlag with a fall midway through the first period of the match.
Alongside Tucker and Darmstadt, junior Jon Jay Chavez (165) also earned the Red six points. In the waning moments of the second period, and with his team holding a slim 9-7 lead over UNI, Chavez completed the pin on Dan Kelly — a decisive moment in Friday’s dual meet.
Following the Chavez fall, Cornell won four of its remaining five matches, ending with a 20-point victory in what Koll described before the weekend as a “significantly more difficult matchup” than last year’s opener against Buffalo, when the Red won by only three points. Nonetheless, Koll’s squad took care of business.
“I am pleased, but not surprised by the results,” he said. “I thought we had a strong shot at winning [eight to nine] out of 10 but we would have had to be perfect.”
The margin of victory was the largest against a ranked opponent since a 34-0 sweeping of No. 14 Virginia Tech in 2014.
“This win doesn’t tell us anything we haven’t already seen in the practice room,” Koll said. “The coaches were confident we would wrestle well but that doesn’t mean we won’t struggle at times. It’s a long season and our next competition will be a much tougher test.”
Next up for Cornell is a prolonged hiatus before the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Dec. 1, where the squad will try its hands against some of the nation’s best wrestlers.