Penn and Princeton both visited the Friedman Wrestling Center this weekend. The Red grapplers made sure to give them a thorough introduction to the facility’s mat. Cornell put the Quakers down Friday evening 23-10, and dismantled Princeton on Saturday, 35-9.
“The winner of the Penn-Cornell match has gone on to win the Ivy Championship the last sixteen years,” noted head coach Rob Koll. “We’re in the driver’s seat. This is the big one we had to get by.”
Not that the team has any intentions of coasting in the coming weeks.
There’s more than a month of wrestling to come, including some very tough competition. The match against Penn was just another step toward an Ivy title and an opportunity for the Red to earn its first victory at the Friedman.
Koll said it hadn’t even occurred to him that this was the team’s first victory at the facility.
“It’s nice to have it against Penn,” he noted. “There’s not a kid [on the team] who hates a school more than Penn.”
On Friday evening, freshman Dustin Manotti, ranked No. 7 in the country, set the tone for the Red. Wrestling against No. 16 Jody Giuricich, Manotti tallied three decisive take-downs in the first to go up 6-2. From there, Manotti locked up his competition and fought out the last two periods for the win.
From that point on, Penn was running.
“Dustin wrestled a really smart match,” said Koll. “They thought they were going to win that match for sure.”
The Quakers’ last chance for a victory came in the 125-pound match when sophomore No. 2 Travis Lee matched up against No. 18 Matt Valenti. Valenti came out hard, picking on Lee’s injured knee to earn a take-down and gain a 2-1 lead.
“I was being careful to protect my knee, and he caught me by surprise,” said Lee. “I just had to work my way back.”
He did just that. Valenti added an escape at the start of the second to go up 3-1. Lee answered with a take-down. Another escape by Valenti put the score at 3-4 to finish the second. Lee never looked back, as he evened the match at 4-4 with an escape of his own at the start of the third before going down on his injured knee. With the crowd behind him, he battled through the pain, brining the spectators at the Friedman to their feet and breaking Valenti’s will with a huge take-down late in the third for his first lead of the match. Lee won 6-5.
“Having the home crowd was huge,” Lee said. “It helped me push through the match.”
Against the Tigers on Saturday, Cornell jumped out to an early 14-0 lead on a pair of technical falls by senior Gabe Webster and junior Scott Roth and a major decision by junior Tyler Baier.
Then, at 184 pounds came the match of the night, pitting Cornell senior captain Clint Wattenberg, ranked No. 2 in the country, against No. 6 Greg Parker from Princeton. Wattenberg went up 4-1 on a solid pair of early take downs in the first, but Parker worked his way back in the second with a take down of his own and tied the score at 4-4 to start off the third. The two battled back and forth for most of the rest of the period, until Wattenberg hit Parker with a decisive take-down; Parker managed to hold on for a reverse, though, tying the match at 6-6 to end the third. Neither managed to score a point in overtime, sending the match to sudden victory. Wattenberg nearly won there on a take-down, but no points were awarded, and the match went to Parker on an escape with 18.7 seconds left in the period.
“I thought he had the take-down at the end,” commented Koll.
The coach pointed out that the loss was not necessarily indicative of Wattenberg’s performance, noting his advantage for the vast majority of the match.
Koll was happy with the over-all results of the weekend, though.
“We obviously put ourselves in a pretty good position, Ivy-wise,” Koll noted.
Cornell’s quest for the title continues this Friday in New York City at Columbia. The team will also match up against No. 5 Lehigh on Saturday.
Archived article by Matt James