Although the Ivy League season will only begin this weekend, the No. 14 Red (4-4) knows that only a two-win weekend will do — especially in tomorrow afternoon’s match against No. 24 Penn (3-2) at the Friedman Wrestling Center where the winner will become the favorite to capture the Ivy crown.
Head coach Rob Koll has received e-mails weeks ahead of time from alumni about the match, and coming off a deflating 25-11 loss to Penn State at last weekend’s 2005 NWCA Cliff Keen National Duals, a huge Red win against its Ancient Eight rival will be crucial to regain momentum.
“I know a lot of alumni are coming back for this one,” Koll said. “You can lose the Penn State match but you can’t lose to Penn when you’re in a Cornell singlet. That’s the one they don’t forget.”
Last weekend at the National Duals, the team wrestled well against No. 1 Oklahoma State, as the score was tied going into the final two weight divisions before the Cowboys pulled out the win. After losing to the Nittany Lions in the consolation bracket — in a contest in which the Red lost close bouts and did not match-up well with its opposition — Cornell hopes to get back on the horse.
First, the Red will have to deal with Princeton (4-3) this evening. In recent history, Cornell has dominated the Tigers, most recently cruising to a 34-3 win in New Jersey last season. The Red has won the last 18 meetings between the two teams dating back to 1986, when Princeton was the last team besides Penn or Cornell to win the outright league title.
“We should be okay with Princeton,” Koll said. “You never really want to overlook anybody because individually, you can get knocked off, but that’s a match we need to win convincingly for me to be happy.”
Facing Penn will be a completely different proposition. The Quakers boast top-25 wrestlers in two weight classes — No. 16 Doug McGraw (141) and No. 5 Matthew Feast (HWT) — as well as several others who are nationally ranked in other polls. In addition, in the teams’ encounter last year, the match came down to the final weight class, when then-freshman Jerry Rinaldi defeated Ethan Bullock, 2-1. Cornell then went on to take its second consecutive league title.
This year, Koll hopes that Cornell will win more convincingly. Koll said that his team matches-up well against the Quakers, with the Red having strong favorites in four weight classes.
In addition, a bright spot last weekend for the team was junior No. 1 Dustin Manotti’s (149) 6-4 victory over then-top seed and Oklahoma State wrestler Zach Esposito — catapulting the Red wrestler to the top of the NWCA poll. Manotti, who was named this week’s Cornell Athlete of the Week, and senior Travis Lee (133), were also ranked first in W.I.N. Magazine’s rankings, although Lee is still second behind Edinboro’s Shaun Bunch in the NWCA listing.
Although the team’s momentum might have taken a bit of a hit last weekend with the loss to Penn State, this weekend, and the Penn match especially, is something the Red will certainly be ready for.
“If [my team] can’t get fired up for this, they can’t get fired up about anything,” Koll said.
Friday night’s 7 p.m. match against Princeton marks Cornell wrestling’s Hospicare Challenge, where for every fan in attendance, six dollars will be donated to Hospice — a non-profit organization which provides support and care for patients and their families who are coping with a life-limiting illness.
“It’s a great way to raise money and it’s a great way to pack the house. [Hospicare] is really a fantastic organization,” Koll said.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor