In a night that saw senior Travis Lee (133-pounds) break Mark Ferguson’s ’93 record for career wins, the Cornell wrestling team (12-4) continued to build its powerful momentum heading into the EIWA Championships and Nationals with a 28-9 win over Bloomsburg (8-6) on Saturday night at the Friedman Wrestling Center.
“The score is misleading. [Bloomsburg’s] got a nice team,” said head coach Rob Koll. “You go into the [EIWA Championships] with a terrible loss and it could affect the whole rest of your year. It could make your year a lot shorter so I’m so pleased that they all showed up today.”
With the graduating seniors being honored prior to the match, it was a trio from the departing class — starters Lee, No. 7 Tyler Baier (184) and Tyler Shovlin (HWT) — who proved to be decisive in Saturday’s victory.
“We’ve worked hard for all of these years,” Shovlin said. “It’s sad leaving this place, it’s been great … but it was definitely a good win and we’ll take it from there.”
After freshman Jordan Leen dropped the opening match at the 141-pound weight class, junior No. 1 Dustin Manotti (149) dominated Bloomsburg’s Mark Piermattei. Manotti was relentless in his attack, and eventually earned a technical fall at 2:52.
The Red won two of the next three matches with wins for junior John Cholish (157) and No. 9 Joe Mazzurco (174). Baier then jogged onto the mat to face Bloomsburg’s Jesse Hasseman. The co-captain left almost as quickly as he came out onto the mat, earning a quick takedown before turning Hasseman over to earn the pin at 1:17.
“A pin is a crowd pleaser and I couldn’t have dreamed it up any better,” Baier said.
In the tightest match of the night, sophomore No. 11 Jerry Rinaldi (197) was behind 1-0 going into the last minute of the third period. But after his opponent, Chad Hoare, was given a one-point false start penalty to tie up the match, Rinaldi escaped with less than 45 seconds left in the bout, to give him a tight, 2-1 win.
Shovlin was up next, earning an early takedown against Bloomsburg’s Mike Spaid to eventually take a 4-2 decision.
“[The win] feels great,” Shovlin said. “It’s going to be one definitely will stick with me through the years. I’ll definitely remember it.”
After Cornell freshman Mike Rodriguez dropped his 125-pound bout to Mike Sees, it was Lee’s turn to go for his record-breaking 135th win. As the crowd got on their feet to cheer for one of the program’s most celebrated wrestlers, Lee earned a early takedown before his opponent, Tony Curto, surprised the crowd by notching a reversal.
“When [Lee] decides to turn it on, he’s dangerous when you piss him off. I wouldn’t want to be out there against him when he’s pissed off,” Baier said.
With the crowd in a bit of shock, Lee stepped it up a notch, taking down Curto before almost turning him over for a pin. Curto was able to escape the first period, but Lee was relentless, earning three more near falls en route to a 17-2 technical fall win.
It was Lee’s 19th career technical fall — seventh of the season — capping off Lee’s 62-3 record in dual meets. The last time the senior lost in a dual meet was on Feb. 2, 2001 and since then, he has racked up 60 straight victories in these matches.
With his win on Saturday, the three-time All-American and one-time national champion now has another accomplishment to tally on his resume — Cornell’s all-time career wins leader.
“I’ll soak it in a little bit tonight, then wait until Nationals is over to really relax and take it all in,” Lee said. “I’m going to try to keep my focus until then.”
The Red stretched its winning streak to eight with the victory heading into the EIWA Championships in Annapolis, MD in two weeks. But while the Ivy League champions are setting their sights on nationals, Saturday night gave the team time to reflect on the graduating class’ contributions to Cornell wrestling.
“Everybody has given back in a different way, but for me, this is my fifth year and I’ve seen this program come from a Bloomsburg-type program where they’re just crashing the top-25 with some good guys here or there to a program that’s solid all the way up through,” Baier said. “I only see it getting better and for me, I feel like I built the foundation for something great.”
“It is a special class not just because of talent but they get along so well,” Koll said. “I know that’s maybe not the most important thing but as a coach, it sure makes life a lot easier. Even though it’s over at Cornell, it’s not over for them and hopefully we could get guys through to nationals.”
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor