January 23, 2004

Red Grapplers Host Lehigh In Showdown at Friedman

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One would think that the schedule might get easier for the wrestling team (3-5) after competing in several tournaments over break featuring some of the top teams and wrestlers in the nation. This Sunday, however, will not be all that different for the Red, as the wrestling team will have one of its greatest tests of the year when it hosts EIWA rival Lehigh at the Friedman Wrestling Center at 2 p.m. Currently Lehigh and Cornell are ranked one and two in the EIWA and eighth and 19th in the nation, respectively. This match will be a determining factor as to who gains an upper hand in the league going into the EIWA championships later in the year.

“It is an important match because they beat us at the EIWA tournament last year,” said junior heavyweight Matt Bogumil, “being at home I think will help us more this year as opposed to last year when we wrestled them at Lehigh. The match is almost sold out.”

Unfortunately for the Red, it will be without one of its top wrestlers so far this season. One-hundred sixty-five pound junior Joe Mazzurco broke his jaw in a match against Cal State-Fullerton over break. The loss of Mazzurco was visible over break in defeats to No. 13 Wisconsin (21-14) and No. 11 Hofstra (18-15), where his presence may have tipped the scales in Cornell’s favor. The busy break was also taxing by the fact that Cornell suffered five losses while only gaining three victories, not what the team had hoped for going into the tournaments.

“We had a lot of tough competition over break,” said junior Tyler Baier. “We wrestled really tough but just did not get the breaks that we needed, points at the end of matches and overtime.”

Despite the tough losses to some of the nation’s top teams including No. 1 Oklahoma State, the Red earned a well-fought victory over Ohio State, 21-20, and had several strong individual performances from grapplers such as junior Travis Lee, sophomore Dustin Manotti, and senior Matt Greenberg.

Lehigh has looked very strong this season, holding a 13-3 record with its only losses coming against other national powerhouses such as Nebraska, Penn State, and Iowa State. At the same time, it has earned victories over such elite programs as Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan this year. The Mountain Hawks also have two of the best wrestlers in the nation among its ranks: sophomore Troy Letters, who is ranked No. 1 in the country in the 165-pound weight class, and senior Brad Dillon, ranked No. 2 in the country in the 175-pound weight class .

What will make this match especially interesting is that both teams match up evenly in most weight classes.

“We match up really well, they are stacked where we are stacked. A lot of ranked guys are going against each other,” said Baier.

In the 125-pound weight class, Lehigh’s Mario Stuart ranks second in the EIWA, while Cornell’s Mike Mormile ranks third. Although Lehigh’s Matt Ciasulli is ranked second in this poll, he will have his work cut out for him against Lee, who is currently No. 1 in the nation in the 133-pound weight class. Cory Cooperman will be challenged by Cornell’s Keith Dickey in the 141-pound weight class, while Manotti should control the 149-pound class. The 157-pound class might be the most evenly matched, with Lehigh’s Derek Zinck posting an 11-4 record while Cornell’s Scott Roth holds a record of 10-6. Freshman David Post will likely get the call in the 165-pound weight class, replacing the injured Mazurrco, though will have a tough challenge in Letters.

Cornell has the potential for an upset in the 174-pound class with Baier matching up against Dillon. The 184-pound class also appears even with Lehigh’s Travis Frick (8-5) and Cornell’s Jerry Rinaldi (9-5) posting nearly identical records.

Greenberg holds a bit of an edge over Lehigh’s Matt Cassidy at 197, while Bogumil will face a tough match against Lehigh’s Paul Weibel in the heavyweight division.

Archived article by Chris Callanan