February 21, 2003

Wrestling Center Reaps Benefits

Print More

Last Saturday was a day immersed in my love for Cornell and subsequent hatred for Harvard.

I spent the weekend sandwiched between four Red hockey obsessed fans (though we’re really impartial), two game-worn jerseys, enough college hockey stats to fill an SUV, and dozens of 20-somethings conditioned to say

“sucks” after every “Harvard.”

I also reaffirmed my hatred for the Crimson after the Bright Hockey Center ticket managers conveniently lost three Cornell Daily Sun media passes, taped two seat holders together to conserve their supply of seats in press box by one, and Dom Moore decided to finger his hockey stick menacingly as he fielded post-game questions. (It must have worked, otherwise I would have asked him why he paired a blue-gray suit with a matching blue-gray shirt of the same exact print, oops.)

However, as many a Cornell fan traveled I-95 from Brown to Harvard, another Red team passed them on the interstate, completing a sweep through the Ivy League and becoming the sole possessors of the Ancient Eight Crown — the wrestling team.

Clint Wattenberg, Travis Lee, Coach Rob Koll and company were heading down to Providence, R.I. just after a 22-13 tromping of the Crimson. It must have been a relaxing ride because the next day the grapplers dominated Brown 33-3. Not even the men’s hockey team can outscore the opposition by 11 times. Wow!

Maybe each sport should get its own building if this is the result. If a stand alone building helps the Red defeat that uglier shade of carmine, the Crimson, I stand for it. But it also helps to have the country’s best wrestlers practicing and performing in that building.

Yet, it is heartening that Cornell has stood by its wrestling program, showering it with a beautiful facility with all the bells and whistles — even plasma televisions, although I’d like to know how these help a man pin another man to a mat — many universities are cutting wrestling from their athletic departments. Yeah, the smaller field gives teams a better chance of success, but it’s tough when your sport is threatened on a national level. Cornell did everything but guarantee that wrestling will stay on the hill.

That must be a nice pitch for recruiting: “We have a brand new building that our alumni invested in, so-and-so doesn’t know if they’ll have a team tomorrow.”

It also might help when you know people in high places like the President’s financial advisor, Steven Friedman ’59, who was a wrestler.

But of course it’s nice when you have a world class program to invest in. Coach Rob Koll has been putting together high caliber teams year after year, so while many place the Red’s success on the brand new Friedman Center’s foundations, the makings of great success lie within the actual program. Wattenberg, currently the No. 2 wrestler in the 184-lb. weight class, came to Ithaca when the team had to share Newman Arena with the basketball teams. Cornell won 23 Ivy titles without a stand alone home.

The Friedman Center will ensure that Cornell maintains its nationally-ranked grapplers, though, especially if the place is as packed as it has been the last few home meets.

Tomorrow, the brand new center hosts its last meet of the season when Cornell competes against East Stroudsburg, a college which I would have no knowledge of otherwise. It will be the best chance to see this top-five team in its top facility before it heads out to the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling championships, and NCAAs, and the moon.

If you aren’t addicted to hockey and want to see one of the best teams on the Cornell campus, head over to that new building between Bartels Hall and Berman Field, but get there early. When I went to watch a wrestling match, I was turned away without a ticket — obviously the ushers didn’t recognize me from my picture in The Sun. Well at least they didn’t ‘lose’ my media pass.

Archived article by Amanda Angel