February 2, 2004

Wrestling Defeats Penn, Princeton

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The wrestling team reignited its season and its hopes of winning the Ivy League championship Saturday when it defeated Penn and Princeton in a multi-state doubleheader. After eking past Penn 17-15 at the Palestra, the team headed to Princeton, where the Red routed the Tigers 34-3.

Though the win over Princeton was expected, the Penn victory was less assured and more coveted, as the winner of the dual has ultimately captured the Ivy title for the past 17 years. The wins improved Cornell’s record to 5-6 overall and 2-0 in league competition.

“Obviously we’re thrilled because, in the last 17 years, the winner of the Cornell-Penn match has been the Ivy League champion,” said head coach Rob Koll. “We still have to knock off Columbia, Harvard, and Brown, but that was the big one.”

Prior to Saturday’s kickoff in Philadelphia, a string of dual-meet losses had dropped Cornell 11 places in national polls from No. 8 to No. 19. Penn, on the other hand, recently defeated third-ranked Iowa State and top-20 teams Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. The wins propelled the Quakers past Cornell to a No. 15 national ranking and the top spot in the Ivies.

Cornell, defending Ivy champions, entered the Penn match hungry to regain its title. The day opened at the 197-pound weight class with Cornell senior Matt Greenberg facing Penn’s Marcus Schontube. The pair battled for two periods and entered the third tied at one. But Greenberg scored a pair of takedowns late in the match to earn a 5-2 victory and put Cornell on the scoreboard first. But in the ensuing heavyweight bout, Penn’s Matt Feast put together a 13-6 decision over Cornell’s Matt Bogumil, and Penn tied the score at three team points apiece.

The next eight matches saw more of the same fiery competition and seesawing changes in the lead. Junior Travis Lee and sophomore Dustin Manotti both earned major decisions against their opponents, giving the Red valuable points. Lee scored four takedowns and a reversal to win his 133-pound bout, 11-3, against Penn’s Matt Eveleth, and Manotti bested Lee’s takedown total by one and added near-fall points during his 149-pound match to beat Nick Matteo, 13-3. Senior Scott Roth followed suit to notch another Cornell win, beating Breet Vanderveer, 5-3, in the 157-pound class.

But Penn rallied and won the next two matches. First, Cornell freshmen Dan Miracola faced Penn’s Richard Ferfuson in the 165-pound matchup. Miracola took a 3-1 lead late into the third period, but Ferguson came back with an escape and a takedown for the win. Then, in the 174-pound weight class, Cornell senior Tyler Baier was upset by Greg Hallahan by a final score of 4-2. The wins eroded Cornell’s lead and put Penn ahead of the Red, 15-14, going into the last match of the meet.

“We did our best to give the meet away, and we lost a lot of matches in the last couple seconds,” Koll said. “But of course, we won a couple, too, to keep ourselves in it.”

The 184-pound bout looked ostensibly to favor the Quakers. Ethan Bullock, a fifth-year senior captain, stepped onto the mat for Penn while, freshmen Jerry Rinaldi took center stage for the Red. A win would win the match; a loss would send the Red packing for an unceremonious trip back to Ithaca. After easing through the first period, the opponents entered the second period knotted in a scoreless tie. Rinaldi got on the scoreboard first, though, when he recorded an escape early in the second period. But Bullock put himself back in the match during the third period when Rinaldi got penalized one point for stalling. The freshman regained composure, however, and finished the third period with just over one minute of riding time — just enough to win the match and give Cornell bragging rights.

“Going into the very last match, I think they were feeling a little bit more confident than a lot of Cornell people were,” commented Koll. “But we felt very confident in Jerry. He’s a clutch player, and he’s got a lot of poise for a freshmen. We never had any worries.”

Following some brief celebration, the team got back on the road and headed for Princeton. Unlike Penn, the Tigers have struggled this season, posting only two dual wins and undertaking a weaker tournament schedule. Cornell knew that the nightcap would be the easier of the day’s contests, but the team did not let down its guard.

In a less gripping finish, the Red routed the orange and black, 34-3. Princeton’s only victory came from Joe Looke, a senior heavyweight and team captain.

“It was disappointing that we didn’t shut them out. Their heavyweight was their best kid, and he’s ranked second in the East,” Koll said. We took him to overtime and had an opportunity to win, but that was the only disappointment.”

The pair of wins puts Cornell in the Ivy driver’s seat for the rest of this season, and the Red hopes to keep that control in its match against Columbia at the Friedman Wrestling Center next weekend. The matchup, which counts for Ivy standings, also serves as a fundraiser. All the proceeds from the event plus additional money from sponsors will go directly to Hospicare of Tompkins County, an organization that provides health care to terminally ill and bedridden patients.

“It’ll be a great match for a great cause, and if we get 1100 or 1200 people through the door, we can donate six or eight thousand dollars,” said Koll. “We’re in a good spot, and, right now, the Ivy title is ours to lose.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson