For a moment, the Cleveland State Convocation Center buzzed with the possibility of a huge win, as No. 11 Cornell was tied at 12-12 with No. 1 Oklahoma State going into the final two weight classes.
But the Cowboys, who boast four number one wrestlers in their squad and were featured in Sports Illustrated this week, were too much for the Red and took the match, 22-12, at this weekend’s 2005 NWCA Cliff Keen National Duals. The Red finished 1-2 at the tournament and is now 4-4 in dual matches.
Cornell, which was ranked eighth in the tournament, dusted off hosts Cleveland State in the first round en route to a 40-3 win. Senior No. 2 Travis Lee (133 pounds) helped set the tone for the Red, earning a technical fall at 6:29, before senior No. 8 Tyler Baier (184) and sophomore No. 10 Jerry Rinaldi (197) pinned their opponents. The Red defeated the Vikings in nine out of ten weight classes.
Its win over Cleveland State gave Cornell momentum for its encounter against top-ranked OSU. The Red started off strong, winning three of its first four matches — including Cornell’s most notable individual victory when junior No. 4 Dustin Manotti (149) defeated No. 1 Zach Esposito, 6-4. The win was especially sweet for Manotti, as the formerly undefeated Esposito beat the Red wrestler in last year’s NCAA championship and at this year’s Marines All-Star Classic.
“I know Dustin knew he could beat the kid,” Koll said. “Now [Esposito] isn’t going to be going out with as much confidence next time.”
The Cowboys stormed back to win the next three weight classes before another Baier win brought the teams even. Red wrestler Jason Manross (197) put in a strong effort before being pinned by No. 1 Jake Rosholt at 3:27 and Oklahoma State No. 1 Steve Mocco (HWT) put the finishing touch on the win, earning a technical fall against Red wrestler, Matt Bogumil. Mocco’s win over Bogumil gave the Cowboy his 53rd straight win.
“The last two guys are the best on the team,” Koll said. “[The win] would be nice, but at the same time, it’s like having [to face] Dustin Manotti and Travis Lee back to back.”
Cornell fell into the consolation round, where it drew No. 21 Penn State. After splitting decisions in the first four weight classes, the Nittany Lions rallied, winning five out of the last six decisions to take the match, 25-11. Manotti and Lee both earned major decisions, while sophomore Joey Hooker (165) also won his bout in the Red’s loss. Lee has now won 40 consecutive dual meet matches.
Koll said that while Penn State was a good team, many of its weaker wrestlers were those in weight divisions that Cornell is strong at. In addition, his team was on the wrong end of many close matches and a few more points for the Red could have made a big difference.
“It just was a bad match-up and as far of the end of the year in tournament time, we’ll do a lot better than them, but in a dual meet, we’re very susceptible to a team like that,” Koll said.
Over the past weeks, the Red has faced a number of top-ranked opponents around the country in preparation for the national tournament in March. This weekend, Cornell will open up its defense of the Ivy League title when it hosts Princeton and perennial rivals No. 23 Penn, at the Friedman Wrestling Center.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor