The seconds ticking down on the countdown clock to nationals in the Friedman Wrestling Center will start to pick up speed as the wrestling team opens its regular season tomorrow inside Newman Arena, as it hosts the Body Bar Invitational. The team will face competition from Ithaca College, Army, Drexel, Maryland, Sacred Heart, Kent State, Purdue, Oregon State, Slippery Rock, and No. 21 Pittsburgh.
The Red, currently ranked No. 9 in the nation, returns two All-Americans (seniors Dustin Manotti and Joe Mazzurco) and five NCAA qualifiers (Manotti, Mazzurco, senior Mike Mormile, junior Jerry Rinaldi, and junior Joey Hooker) from last year’s team which finished fourth overall at nationals in Kansas City.
“Everything up to the national tournament is practice,” said head coach Rob Koll. “Practice is practice and competition is practice, all up until the national tournament. We are not putting this at the top of our goal list in terms of winning it, but then again every time we step on the mat we want to win. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win it.”
Cornell will look to better last year’s performance this season after placing second at the event a year ago. Michigan, who placed second at nationals, edged Cornell in the team standings 139.50 to 131. There is, however, a difference from this year to last in that Michigan is no longer participating in the event.
Manotti (157 pounds) and Rinaldi (197 pounds) will defend their championships from last season’s Body Bar Invitational in their respective weight classes. If Manotti comes out on top, it will be his fourth consecutive Body Bar title. He is currently ranked No. 3 in the 157-pound weight division, despite never having wrestled at that weight before.
“Manotti could wrestle at any weight,” said assistant coach Steve Garland. “It doesn’t really matter what weight he wrestles at, he’s still going to be Dustin.”
One thing that will be monitored throughout the day is how many of the wrestlers adjust to their new weight classes. Manotti will move up from 149 to 157, senior Joe Mazzurco will try out 184 pounds, senior John Cholish moves up to 165, and senior Mike Mormile will make his debut at 133. Despite the new weight classes, the team expects no drop-off in performance.
“Weight shouldn’t really be an issue,” Koll said. “When you get up in the higher weight classes it’s not that big of a deal because of the proportion of body weight. Ten pounds at 184 is almost twice as much in proportion to 10 pounds at 125. And style-wise, the higher you go, the less athletic your opponent will be. Even if you move up a weight class, if you bring muscle with it there really isn’t any difference.”
One of the benefits of the tournament will be that each wrestler on the squad will get a chance to show the improvements they have made in the offseason. Along with that, the nation’s third best recruiting class will make its debut, as they will get a chance to show what they can do on the mat.
“It’s going to be fun to see our young guys who haven’t wrestled yet,” Garland said. “It’s always exciting to see for the first time the guys that you’ve recruited, to see how they’ve developed to this point, and how they’ll do in competition.”
The tournament will kick off at 9 a.m. inside the confines of Bartels Hall and will run all afternoon long. The final round will take place at around 5 p.m.
“I’m just excited to get it going,” Koll said. “Practice isn’t all that much fun in wrestling. It’s not like you’re kicking a ball, having a good time, and high-fiving everyone. You’re literally getting thrown down and getting smashed against the mat. It’s much more fun when you’re actually keeping score. I know the guys are excited about it as well.”
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer