High expectations? Pressure? Yeah.
“If you make the team, we expect you to qualify for nationals,” wrestling coach Rob Koll said unequivocally.
Cornell returns two All-Americas, senior captain Clint Wattenberg and sophomore Travis Lee, and four other NCAA championship qualifiers — seniors Gabe Webster and Matt Greenberg and juniors Alejandro Alvarez and Scott Roth.
“Our first goal is to win the Ivies,” said Koll. “Equally important, we want to have national champions and All-Americans.”
The team expects excellence from itself, from league matches all the way to the national championships.
“We’d like to finish in the top ten,” concluded Koll.
Wattenberg, Roth, and senior Byron Warner will lead the way as captains of the team.
Last year, Wattenberg compiled a stellar 43-7 record with titles at the Cornell Invitational, Sharpie Open, New York State championships, and EIWA championships. He earned a sixth-place finish and his All-American honors at the NCAA championships wrestling in the 184-pound weight class.
Warner hopes to continue one trend in his tenure at Cornell: constant improvement. In 2002, he won the Carolina Open title and comes into this season looking for a place in the NCAA tournament and All-American honors at the 141-pound level.
The lone junior among the captains, Roth picked up a New York State championship at 165 pounds last year on his way to a solid 26-15 record.
Additionally, Koll pointed to Travis Lee.
“He’s only a sophomore, but we certainly expect him to lead,” noted Koll.
Lee racked up quite a list of honors in his freshman year, including New York State and EIWA Freshman of the Year, Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and a place on the All-Ivy Second Team. He grappled his way to a 33-9 record in the 125-pound weight class and a seventh-place finish at the NCAA tournament.
Backing up Wattenberg, Warner, Roth and Lee is an experienced group. Among the national qualifiers from last year, Alvarez should start at 133, and Webster will be at 157. Greenberg will likely compete at 197.
Senior Buck McLamb will represent Cornell at the 275 level. Sophomores Tyler Baier and Randy Calloway will compete for time with junior Randy Stout in the 174-pound weight class, and freshman Dustin Manotti could be the starter at 149.
“We have a mature team, so it’s going to be tough for a freshman to make an impact,” Koll said. “On paper, this is the most talented team we’ve ever had.”
The team’s only serious weakness, Koll noted, is its relatively small size.
The bottom line?
“We have to stay healthy,” Koll concluded.
Only time can tell whether or not that will happen. In the meantime, though, the Red has a tough team and a sparkling new facility, the Friedman Wrestling Center, located adjacent to Bartels Hall.
The state-of-the-art building houses a huge mat room with stadium-style seating, offices for the coaches, a weight room and team study space.
It offers more amenities for the team as well as being an excellent recruiting tool. Hopefully for the Red, it can be one more element in the team’s success.
“It’s early,” noted Koll. “Everyone is undefeated right now. Once exams come around and people start getting sick, that’s when you see how they respond to adversity.”
But if last year is any indication, the Red should do just fine.
Archived article by Matt James