In a landmark year for Cornell wrestling, where the Red placed fourth at the NCAA championships and set a number of new program records, head coach Rob Koll and his squad have already set their sights to at least repeat the program’s best season in 52 years.
“We have the talent in the room to have a great year and I am confident that we will have a great dual-meet season,” Koll stated in an e-mail. “When it comes to the national tournament, there are so many intangibles that are out of our control that you can never predict how much success you will enjoy. If all goes well, no injuries or sickness, we have the manpower to repeat on last year’s success.”
While heads turned at the unexpected rise of the Red with its nine qualifiers and four All-Americans, Koll and his coaching staff will have to continue to convince the team’s doubters this year without two of last season’s leaders — Travis Lee ’05 and Tyler Baier ’05.
Lee arguably cemented his place as the greatest grappler in Cornell history when he secured his second NCAA title, as he knocked off Edinboro’s Shawn Bunch in the final — becoming the first Red wrester since Dave Auble ’60 to accomplish the two-peat. The Hawaiian native, who also boasts the Cornell and Ivy League career wins record, also became the first Ivy wrestler to become a four-time All-American.
Baier, noted by teammates and coaches as the squad’s main leader, had a tantalizing run into the 184-pound bracket finals — knocking off the second and third seeds along the way — before falling to West Virginia’s Greg Jones in the finals.
But despite these two key departures, along with heavyweight Tyler Shovlin ’05, who helped clinch crucial team points at NCAAs, Koll is confident that his 2005-2006 squad will be able to step up to the challenge of holding Cornell’s position among the top programs.
“You can never expect to replace two national finalists,” Koll stated in an e-mail. “It is time for these [other] guys to be the next Lee and Baier. I’m confident that we will have a couple pleasant surprises this year.”
Part of the Koll’s optimism comes from senior returnees Joe Mazzurco and Dustin Manotti, who both earned All-America honors, placing fifth and sixth in the NCAA tournament, respectively. In addition, NCAA qualifiers, senior Mike Mormile, juniors Joey Hooker and Jerry Rinaldi and sophomore and reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year Jordan Leen will all be back in action for the Red.
In addition, reinforcements for the squad will come in the form of six new faces — rated by InterMat as the third best recruiting class in the country. Heading up this list are a pair of the country’s top lightweights — Troy Nickerson and Adam Frey, who won the NHSCA High School Nationals recently in the 125 and 130 brackets, respectively.
Nickerson is the first five-time state champion in New York history, and earned the 2005 Junior Dan Hodge Trophy, awarded by the Amateur Athletic Union and W.I.N. Magazine to the nation’s best high school wrestler. The Chenango Forks, N.Y., native, who earned an overall record of 217-6 during high school, took the freestyle and Greco-Roman championships at the 2004 Junior Nationals — not allowing a single point during the tournament.
Frey’s credentials are almost equally impressive, as he is a two-time prep national champion and has also claimed consecutive Beast of the East championships during his last two seasons at Blair Academy.
In addition to Nickerson and Frey, Koll will have Curtis Roddy — a three-time Michigan state champion, along with twins Michael and Taylor Moore and Josh Arnone.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Assistant Sports Editor