March 5, 2004

Grapplers Ready for EIWAs

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The grapplers will compete for an EIWA title and trips to the NCAA tournament this weekend at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The centennial edition of the tournament will be Cornell’s first competition since February 21st, when the Red (11-6, 5-0 Ivy) went 3-0 in the Virginia Duals. Cornell enters the weekend ranked No. 3 despite a No. 15 national ranking and a win over the No. 2 ranked Quakers. The Red tied No. 1 ranked Lehigh earlier in the year but lost the match on near-fall points.

Thirteen teams, including all six Ivy programs, will compete in the two-day event. Lehigh tops the charts of participants in national polls. The Mountain Hawks currently hold the No. 8 spot in the country, while Cornell has the No. 15 rank, and Penn rounds out the pack at No. 18. Nearly every team at the tournament will have at least one wrestler ranked among the top ten in the country.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know we were ranked third, and no one on our team does,” said senior co-captain Tyler Baier. “We’ve had great practices in the last two weeks. The coaches have prepared us well and so have the guys who’ve been helping the starters get ready for this. We know we’re the best team there.”

Two Cornell wrestlers enter the competition seeded first in their weight classes. Junior Travis Lee, who is also ranked first in the country, is 33-1 this season and will look to add more wins in the 133-pound class. At 197 pounds, senior Matt Greenberg will have to take out No. 2 Marcus Schontube of Penn, whom he defeated, 5-2, in the team’s January dual.

Receiving second- and third-place rankings were also freshmen Mike Mormile at 125-pounds, sophomore Dustin Manotti at 149-pounds, and Joe Mazzurco in the 165-pound weight class, and senior Scott Roth at 157.

As the team standings indicate, Leigh and Penn will make a strong case for the title. Lehigh grapplers hold No. 1 seeds in four brackets and top-threes in four more. The Quakers don’t boast as strong a lineup, but, nonetheless, have two top-seeds and another four grapplers in the top three.

“We’ll have a few really tough weight classes, and it’ll be important for us to have wins and get all the points we can,” Roth said. “Mine, 157 [pounds] is in the air, and the guy from Lehigh is ahead of me. Tyler Baier is going against a kid who’s ranked No. 1 in the country. And Joe Mazzurco hasn’t lost anything, but he also has a tough match against a No. 1 guy.”

Those top-ranked individuals are Harvard’s Jesse Jantzen, the top ranked 149-pounder in the NCAA, and Lehigh’s defending champ, Troy Letters, No. 1 nationally at 165-pounds.

Despite the obstacles, as many Cornell wrestlers as possible must place in their brackets for them to advance to the NCAA championships. Last year, the Red took eight men. It won’t accept any fewer this year.

“We gotta perform. Lehigh has a good team, but we know we’re better than Penn,” continued Baier. “We have to take eight this year, but we could qualify all ten guys.”

Qualifying that many men would probably guarantee the men an EIWA trophy, but it would also bump the squad’s national ranking up a few notches. More importantly, it would give the Red a moral boost as it prepares for the NCAA championships, which begin March 18th.

“This is huge,” Baier concluded. “Our two goals at the beginning of the seasons were to win Ivies and win EIWAs. We’ve already got one of those goals. It would be great to accomplish the second.”

Archived article by Everett Hullverson