After months of training and hard-fought dual meets, eight Cornell wrestlers will now begin the most important three days of the season – competing at the NCAA championships in Oklahoma City, Okla., beginning today.
Eight individual wrestlers from Cornell qualified for the tournament at the EIWA championships two weeks ago, as five earned automatic bids, while three wrestlers managed wild-card berths.
“We feel like we can have a really good showing because we do have some superstars,” said head coach Rob Koll. “And we’re sending eight wrestlers out there, so we’re at an advantage over some of these teams because we have the numbers.”
The national tournament is both a team and individual competition. A national champion will be crowned in each of the ten respective weight classes, and the school that earns the most overall points will win the overall team championship. Cornell finished fourth last year in the team competition, while Travis Lee ’05 took home a national title at 133 pounds. The top-8 wrestlers in each weight class will earn All-America honors and also earn points for their team.
“You get points for placing, and we feel like we have a lot of guys who can place,” Koll said.
The Red contingent will be led by two 2005 All-Americans, seniors Dustin Manotti (157 pounds) and Joe Mazzurco (184 pounds).
Manotti is a three-time All-American, and he has a 10-5 record at the NCAA tournament. Although he was injured in the championship match of the EIWAs, Manotti has returned to full health and will be looking to earn his first national title, according to Koll.
“Manotti got knocked out, but he’s healthy now and he feels great,” Koll said.
Mazzurco – the No. 4 seed in the tourney at 184 pounds – was an All-American last year and he has lost only twice this year. His top competition at the NCAAs is likely to be No. 1 Josh Glenn of American, who managed to defeat Mazzurco at the final round of the EIWA championships.
Freshman Troy Nickerson – the No. 5 seed at 125 pounds – will now have his opportunity on the national collegiate stage. Nickerson recorded a 32-1 record this year – leading the team in wins- and he has also earned nine major decisions.
At 133 pounds, senior Mike Mormile will take to the mat in his third national tournament. Mormile wrestled at 125 pounds last year, and will be facing new national competition at 133 pounds.
Junior Keith Dickey will wrestle for Cornell at 149 pounds. Dickey has had a mixed season, but he put together a solid run at the EIWAs to qualify for the national tourney. Koll noted that he is looking to see a continuation of solid wrestling from the Missouri native.
“He’s real unorthodox,” Koll said. “He put it together a little bit at [the EIWAs], but that’s still not the best I think he has to offer.”
Sophomore Steve Anceravage will be Cornell’s wrestler at 165 pounds. The Pennsylvania native will also be making his first trip to the tournament, and he will compete as the No. 11 seed. Anceravage turned in a second place finish at the EIWAs, defeating 2004 national champion Troy Letters of Lehigh in the semifinal round.
At 174 pounds, senior Dan Miracola will make his first trip the NCAAs. His fifth place result at the EIWAs was good enough to earn him a wild-card berth to nationals, and Miracola seems to be peaking at just the right time for the tournament.
Junior Jerry Rinaldi will make his third trip to the national tournament at 197 pounds. Rinaldi ranked among the best wrestlers at his weight class in the country this year, as he recorded a 28-3 record.
“He lost a match to the number one ranked guy in the country [at Easterns], but Jerry knows he can beat that guy,” Koll said. “He should have a great deal of confidence.”