Cornell wrestling (2-4, 0-0 Ivy) limped its way through winter break as it placed second at the Las Vegas Invitational and third at the Southern Scuffle at UNC Greensboro. Without senior captains Joe Mazzurco and Dustin Manotti healthy at the same time, the Red then struggled to find any kind of consistency, amassing a 2-4 dual meet record. Despite the losing record, every Cornell defeat has come at the hand of a top-10 team. The Red has lost to Penn State, Oklahoma, and Michigan twice.
“We’ve had some pretty good teams. We’re still ranked 11th in the country and we’re 2-4,” said head coach Rob Koll. “They don’t really penalize you like they do in football. If you’re up against good teams, they understand and they respect you for getting out there and getting after them. Then again, it’s not like the teams we’ve beaten, Lock Haven and Northern Iowa, aren’t good teams. It’s not like you can say we haven’t wrestled well at times.”
Cornell showed glimpses of greatness at the Southern Scuffle, as freshman Troy Nickerson (125 pounds), Manotti (157), and junior Jerry Rinaldi (197) all took home individual titles. The team finished third in the standings behind Minnesota and Missouri after compiling a total of 131 points. Unfortunately, the top-5 finish was bittersweet, as Mazzurco (184) suffered a rib injury that caused him to miss the next two weeks of action. Junior Keith Dickey (149) was also forced to stop competing after suffering a concussion from a headbutt. Fortunately, he did not miss any time after that day.
The Red kicked off the 2006 dual season with a 24-13 loss against fourth ranked Michigan amidst bow ties and cocktail waitresses at the famous New York Athletic Club. After Nickerson and senior Mike Mormile (133) gave the Red an early 7-0 lead, the team would then see the match slip away as the Wolverines won six of the next eight matches. Manotti and Rinaldi were the only other victors.
Cornell’s second dual ended in similar fashion as it found itself on the losing end of a 27-7 romp at the hands of Penn State. The team struggled to generate any momentum as the Nittany Lions won the first two matches with the wrestling starting at 141 pounds, giving them a 7-0 lead. The Red got on the board after Manotti went on to defeat Nathan Galloway, cutting the lead to four, but Penn State went on to win six of the next seven matches to seal the victory.
“The only time we wrestled really poorly was at Penn State,” Koll said. “We had just come back from Greensboro where we had a huge tournament, drove all the way home, drove to New York City, wrestled there, drove all the way home, drove out to Pennsylvania and just looked terrible. We looked tired and really beat up.”
After the loss to Penn State, Cornell then traveled to Lock Haven that same night and recorded its first dual victory of the season, winning 26-12. Junior Matt Easter won his first match in dual competition as he defeated the Bald Eagles’ Brian Ellis, giving the Red a 13-0 advantage after an earlier pin from Nickerson and a major decision from Mormile. Cornell would go on to win four of the next seven matches to earn the win. Unfortunately, the victory did come at a price, as two-time All-America Dustin Manotti popped his ankle while fighting off an attack from his competitor. He was forced to forfeit the match, as well as sit out the National Duals at Northern Iowa.
At the National Duals Cornell showed toughness as it attempted to upset fourth ranked Oklahoma with an incomplete squad, eventually losing 19-15. Despite a gaping hole left in the lineup with loss of Manotti, Mazzurco returned in fashion as he defeated 14th ranked Justin Dyer. Rinaldi also wrestled well as he went on to upset the nation’s second ranked wrestler at 197 pounds, Joel Flaggert. The most highly anticipated match of the day was that of the previously undefeated Nickerson against second ranked Sam Hazewinkel.
“Not to take anything away from Hazewinkel, but Troy didn’t wrestle his match,” Koll said. “I should say Hazewinkel did a great job in stopping Troy, slowing him down, and frustrating him. Troy made one mistake on top, got reversed, and that was the only scoring in the whole match. He rode him out the rest of the way, got the point for riding time, and won 3-0. It was a really close match, but Troy has more to gain from it.”
The Red concluded the duals with a victory over Northern Iowa, 19-15, and another loss to Michigan, this time by a score of 31-10. Mazzurco and Rinaldi won all three of their matches during the two-day event.
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer