January 26, 2006

Red Increases Intensity in Preparation for Title Run

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Although it will merely go down as a 19-14 win, No. 14 Cornell’s victory over No. 12 Lehigh this past Sunday afternoon in front of the largest crowd in Cornell history for a sporting event inside Newman Arena, had an even greater meaning to Cornell wrestling than what it is worth on paper.

The event saw Cornell overcome a major obstacle, as it beat the Mountain Hawks for the first time in a decade, not only winning one for itself, but one for the community as well. The dual match raised over $10,000 for Ithaca Hospicare. Dr. Rob Arleo, Dr. Jeff Lewis, and an anonymous sponsor each donated $3 dollars for each person in attendance – which included 4,425 students, alumni, local townspeople, and high school wrestlers from around the New York state area.

The win also improved the team’s dual meet record to 3-4, just one victory shy of the team’s record last year at this point in the season. The Red eventually finished fourth at the national tournament in Kansas City – the team’s highest finish in 52 years. Despite losing arguably Cornell’s best wrestler in the history of the program, Travis Lee ’05, 184-pound runner-up Tyler Baier ’05, and sophomore Jordan Leen to a spring semester internship opportunity, the Red surprisingly finds itself with a team that seems very similar to last year’s squad. In addition, Cornell quite possibly could be better pound-for-pound at every weight class.

“If we had just one more guy healthy like Dustin Manotti, we’d be 4-3 right now because we would have beaten Oklahoma,” said head coach Rob Koll. “That didn’t happen obviously, and it is what it is, but at this point in the season, you can’t worry about matches you didn’t win. I do think though, as my assistant coaches would agree with me, that our team is very similar to last season’s. The guys don’t think they’re 3-4. They think they’re 7-0.”

New faces such as sophomore Steve Anceravage (165 pounds) and freshman Troy Nickerson (125) have performed up to expectations. Anceravage is currently ranked 13th in the nation in his weight class, while Nickerson is ranked fifth, according to Intermat rankings.

Nickerson, touted as the best recruit in the nation at his weight class, has amassed a 21-1 record with his only loss coming in a close 2-0 match against second-ranked Sam Hazewinkel from Oklahoma. To date, the Binghamton native has posted the best record ever by a freshman in the history of the program. Lee recorded nine losses in his freshman season before going on to win national titles at both 125 and 133 pounds later in his stellar career.

“Nickerson, being 21-1 and ranked as high as fourth in some polls as a true freshman, I’m not going to say is a surprise, but he has lived up to his billing,” Koll said. “Seldom do freshmen step up and handle the stress and adjustment of college as well as Troy has.”

Although the wrestlers admit that there are a lot of similarities between this team and last year’s squad, they try not to base that similarity off their records alone. Instead, they attempt to better their overall finish and establish their own identity.

“I really don’t think it matters,” said senior Dustin Manotti in regards to the team’s current record. “Last year, we were in the same spot and I think we’re going to continue being at the top no matter what. In terms of how many dual meets we win or lose, dual meets are just preparation for the end of the year tournament and I think we’re a better end of the year tournament team than we are a dual meet team.”

With 49 days remaining until nationals, the stretch run towards a national title has begun. The practices will get more intense as the wrestlers will look to build confidence over the second half of the season. Cornell starts Ivy competition on Feb. 4 against Columbia at the Friedman Wrestling Center.

“We train for the end of the year and we’re all coming together,” senior 133 pounder Mike Mormile said. “That is what we are all about.”

Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Staff Writer