February 10, 2003

Grapplers Beat Lions, Fall to No. 5 Lehigh

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The results didn’t show the whole story for the wrestlers this weekend. As a matter of fact, the results might even obscure the story. The team started the weekend off in New York with a 23-12 win against Columbia, and then traveled south to Bethlehem, PA, to match up against No. 5 Lehigh. There, the No. 6 Red lost 27-10. However, head coach Rob Koll declined to evaluate the weekend strictly on those results.

“I thought we were awful at Columbia,” said Koll. “But the Lehigh match was a different story,” he noted.

“We got beat by a better team on that day,” explained the coach. “I think they’re the best team we’ve seen.”

And that includes No. 3 Minnesota and No. 4 Ohio State, so the Red faced no easy task.

The match started out at 133 pounds, with junior Alejandro Alvarez matched up against No. 8 Cory Cooperman from Lehigh. Cooperman scored a take-down and a near fall before pinning Alvarez at 2:05 in the first.

“He was real, real tough on the mat,” Koll said about Cooperman.

He got a hold of Alvarez’s arm and did his best to wrench it off going for the pin.

“It was pretty brutal,” Koll concluded.

At 141, senior captain Byron Warner picked up a victory over a solid

opponent to strike back for the Red, and then No. 6 Dustin Manotti scored a major decision at 149 to bring the team score to a 7-6 Cornell advantage. Senior Gabe Webster wrestled next at 157. Five minutes into the match he held a 3-2 lead, but his opponent, No. 7 Derek Zinck, managed an escape to even the score, and finished with a take-down in the third. The match hinged on the escape, noted coach Koll, and Zinck benefited from a favorable call.

“I really feel Gabe should have won the match,” said the coach. “Had it been anywhere but Lehigh, with a hometown ref, he would have won.”

From there the Red lost five of the last six matches, with All-American captain Clint Wattenberg posting his usual stellar effort for the only win.

Cornell was hobbled with senior Buck McLamb and sophomore Travis Lee both out with injuries, and with the team’s normal course of improvement, coach Koll noted that Lehigh wouldn’t be out of reach in the near future. The wrestlers are improving, and the Lehigh match was another step in the right direction.

“We’re certainly within striking distance of that team,” he said.

On the horizon for the team is the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships, March 7 and 8, in Ithaca at the Friedman.

“It will be all the more gratifying if we can win it at home,” said Koll.

This week the team has its two final Ivy matches to deal with. The team takes on Harvard in Boston on Friday, and goes up against Brown the next day in Providence.

“This will be the first outright Ivy title we’ve won in a long time,” Koll noted.

“All the team needs to do is go in, tie up the loose ends and win the matches, and that will take care of everything,” said the coach.

“Every match counts at this time of year,” said Koll, noting the seeding for matches and the tough road it takes to get to Nationals. With that in mind the grapplers have no intention of letting up. The clock is counting down the hours to the NCAAs.

Archived article by Matt James