January 30, 2004

Grapplers Visit Penn, Princeton

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After completing a grueling national tour which included duals against top-ranked teams Lehigh, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State and Hofstra, the wrestling team will finally get its first taste of Ivy League competition this weekend when it heads to Philadelphia, Penn. and Princeton, N.J. to take on Penn and Princeton. The Cornell squad has a modest 3-6 record heading into the contests, but strong showings at powerhouse tournaments have kept the Red ranked among the top 20 in national polls.

“It’s going to be awesome to get off with a big start,” said head coach Rob Koll. “For 17 straight years, the winner of the Penn-Cornell match has gone on to win the Ivy League title, so it’s obviously a very important one to win.”

In spite of the Red’s .333 winning percentage, all of its losses have come to teams ranked in the top 20 in the country, and the margin of victory in many of those matches was slim — two or three points. Entering its final bout against Wisconsin, Cornell trailed by four points, and Cornell junior heavyweight Matt Bogumil had a chance to win it for the Red. But, as the final 20 seconds of the third period ticked away, the Badgers’ Jareck Horton scored a takedown, earning a 3-1 decision, and giving Wisconsin a 21-14 team victory.

Against Hofstra, Cornell saw another win yanked from under its feet. After four weight classes, the Red had worked to a 12-3 lead, and the middle of the lineup saw bouts go to both the Red and Pride. But Hofstra’s grapplers came out on top in the last five matches of the day, and Cornell lost the dual, 18-15.

“Against Wisconsin, we had to forfeit a weight class as opposed to a pretty sure three points we would have gotten, so that’s a nine point swing, and we ended up losing by three. The Hofstra match, we ended up losing by three points and one of our guys had actually beaten their kid before,” added Koll. “We could very easily be 6-2 if we get those wins right there. But all things considered, we’re one of the best 3-6 teams in the country.”

Though the losses have taken their toll on the team’s record, the grapplers’ confidence that it can take the Ivy League championship trophy home at the end of February has not diminished.

“Right now, the guys are positive and feel that, despite the record, we have a solid team,” said Koll. “We have a good chance to get the Ivy title and have a strong nationals finish.”

But both the Quakers and Tigers boast several matmen who will make both matches in tomorrow’s doubleheader tough for the Red.

Last weekend, 15th ranked Penn placed eighth at the Cliff Keen NWCA National Duals, and the team upset No. 3 Iowa State and No. 14 West Virginia at the National Duals. The Quakers, 4-5 overall, have also proven themselves worthy of a top spot in the polls by beating Wisconsin, 19-15, handing Northern Illinois its first loss of the season in a 22-20 nail-biter, and losing close matches to top-10 teams Michigan, Penn State, Oklahoma and Minnesota.

“On paper, there are a lot of matches that are up for grabs against Penn, and we need to win the close ones,” continued Koll. “I’m sure Penn expects to win, but we know we can pull it out.”

The nightcap against Princeton, a team which showed promise earlier in the season but has fallen to 2-5, will be the easier match of the day for Cornell’s grapplers. In November, the Tigers earned an easy win against South Dakota State, but the team’s only victory since came against unranked Bacone College at the National Duals. And Princeton has struggled against the tougher opponents on its schedule, managing to score only nine points against Wisconsin, dropping a 41-0 shutout to 20th ranked Purdue, and losing 34-8 to Northern Illinois.

“At one point about five or six years ago, Princeton actually dropped its team, and right now they’re trying to rebuild,” commented Koll. “Though they do have some strong individuals, they just don’t have the depth to beat us as a team right now.”

With its national ranking, bragging rights, and an Ivy League championship trophy on line, the Red will certainly give all it can to start its second semester schedule on the path to the top of the Ivy League.

Concluded Koll, “We should beat Princeton, but if history is any indication, Penn is the all important match for us.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson