Nothing is automatic. There are no guarantees.
Wrestling team head coach Rob Koll was unequivocal: “Every single match is crucial.”
The grapplers host the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Tournament this weekend at Barton Hall. At stake, along with team and individual trophies, are 36 slots to the NCAA championships.
The Red, ranked sixth in the nation, goes into the tournament ready to wrestle after an off-week and a 27-5 whipping of East Stroudsburg two weeks ago.
The team’s biggest competition for the team title will likely come from No. 4 Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks beat Cornell 27-10 in a dual meet earlier this year. Koll noted, however, that while Lehigh has more top-ranked competitors, the Red can counter with greater depth
“We’re the only team that has everyone seeded in the top eight,” he said. “We plan on winning with our depth.”
Cornell has one of the top four seeds in eight out of the 10 weight classes. Sophomore Travis Lee leads the way for the Red with the top seed at 125 pounds, and right behind him are four wrestlers seeded second in their weight classes — junior Alejandro Alvarez at 133, freshman Dustin Manotti at 149, senior Clint Wattenberg at 184, and classmate Matt Greenberg at 197.
With five more ranked athletes, Cornell will field a formidable group.
“Everyone on the team needs to place,” said Koll.
If that happens, he noted, the team will likely accumulate enough points to start thinking about a championship.
“The quarterfinal matches for us are going to be critical,” Koll said. “We’re going to have to wrestle pretty well, and get some minor upsets.”
And those “minor upsets” will be what puts the team into position for a win.
“Right now, we’re just looking to get into the semis,” he concluded.
By reaching the semifinals, wrestlers automatically place in the tournament, and as Koll noted, that’s all they need to do.
Everything from a home crowd to a long, icy drive to Ithaca should be working for the grapplers today and tomorrow, as they look for their first EIWA title since 1993. They just need to meet their own expectations and make it to the next level: NCAAs.
“I’d like to see all 10 of our guys spending their Spring Break in Ithaca,” said Koll. “Not many agents are going to be selling that ticket, but it’s the hottest one on our team.”
Archived article by Matt James