The winter cold should have sent most into hiding, but the 10th-ranked Red refused to hibernate and left Ithaca in search of prey. In a five week road-trip, the Red battled the best wrestling competition in the nation. The term “winter break” may be misleading.
“Our expectations are so high its hard to satisfy them,” said head coach Rob Koll. “We are getting where we want to be, but some guys still need to step up. We need to take it the next level if we want to meet our goal for the season — finishing in the top ten or better.”
Currently, the Red has five wrestlers ranked in the top eight of their respective weight classes in the nation. Garnering the honors are senior co-captain Travis Lee (133), junior co-captain Dustin Manotti (149), senior Joe Mazzurco (174), senior co-captain Tyler Baier (184), and sophomore Jerry Rinaldi (197).
“It’s not such a big deal for the guys on the team,” Koll said. “But for those of us who have been around the program for a while and remember the days when we weren’t so good — it is. For the alums and the program this is a big accomplishment.”
The Red’s odyssey began in Las Vegas. Lee recorded an impressive 6-4 victory over Purdue’s Chris Fleeger in 133-pound weight class final. For his efforts, Lee was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler with a perfect 6-0 record. Manotti secured another individual championship for the Red in the 149-pound weight class. The Red finished the tournament fifth out of 46 teams and was the only team, aside from tournament victor Michigan, to have more than one individual champion.
The Red returned to action in the Southern Scuffle in Greensboro, N.C. The Red turned in several excellent performances but was edged by seventh-ranked Minnesota, 169-161.5 for the team title. Five Red wrestlers finished in second while Manotti and Mazzurco earned individual titles. Manotti defeated Minnesota’s C.P. Schlatter, a redshirt freshman and arguably the nation’s top recruit from the Class of 2003, in a one-sided bout, 14-4.
Mazzurco, who wrestled unattached for the first month of the season, cruised through the tournament and began the season, 14-0. .
“Joe broke his jaw in the middle of last season, he lost a lot of weight, and that cost him at the end of the season,” Koll said. “Right now, he may be surprising opponents but he’s not surprising us. We knew Joe would have a great season.”.
The Red next stopped in Grand Prairie, Tex. for the Lone Star Duals. The Red posted wins over Purdue and Division II powerhouse Central Oklahoma but fell to tenth-ranked Oklahoma. The Oklahoma match was highlighted by Mazzurco’s 8-6 upset of sixth-ranked E.K. Waldhaus. Lee had a strong day, winning all three of his matches while Manotti suffered his first loss of the season to fifth-ranked Matt Stornolio of Oklahoma.
The Red returned to the East Coast for a match against fifth-ranked Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks overpowered the Red in 20-12 decision. The Red won three of the first four matches to jump out to a 9-3 advantage. Senior Mike Mormile notched a victory in 125-pound weight class with a 12-6 decision over Anthony Rizzi. Lee followed with a close win over Matt Ciasulli, 5-1, and Manotti rolled over David Nakasone, 12-4. However, Lehigh was too strong and won five out of the next six matches to defeat the Red.
The six week cross-country journey wrapped up Jan. 16, when the Red finally had the chance to strut in front of a home crowd. The Red crushed Ohio State, 27-9, winning three matches by major decision and one by fall. Manotti, Cholish, sophomore Joey Hooker, Mazzurco, Baier, Mormile, and Lee all recorded victories in the Red rout. The Red also improved its record to 3-2 on the season.
Archived article by James Rich
Sun Staff Writer