OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The wrestling team finally made its move on the second day of competition, surging from 16th place after Day 1 to sixth after yesterday’s session IV. The team saw four wrestlers earn All-America honors, including freshman Troy Nickerson, junior Jerry Rinaldi, senior Joe Mazzurco and senior Dustin Manotti. Nickerson won his two matches in the championship bracket, eventually earning his way to tonight’s finals, which will be televised live on ESPN.
Nickerson started the day off for the Red, punching his ticket to the semifinals in the 125 pound bracket by pinning Michael Sees of Bloomsburg with 1:33 left to go in the second period. Nickerson scored an early takedown in the first, but was reversed with 50 seconds left, evening the score at two. After starting the second period on bottom, Nickerson scored a reversal and held Sees down to the mat for the victory. He pumped his fists triumphantly and saluted the crowd after earning his first All-America honor.
In even more stunning fashion, Nickerson then defeated the nation’s top wrestler, Michigan State’s Nick Simmons, 2-1, earning a spot in the finals. The match went scoreless through two periods until Nickerson scored a takedown with a minute remaining in the match. Simmons was eventually awarded a point after Nickerson was flagged for stalling. Nickerson will face the returning champion, Joe Dubuque of Indiana, in tomorrow’s championship match.
“This has been my goal for a long time, but it’s not over yet,” Nickerson said. “I still have one more match. My goal is to become a national champ and I’m on my way. [Dubuque] is as tough as nails and he proved that by getting to the finals again this year. I’m looking forward to the match. I just have to go out there and give it all I’ve got.”
Dubuque, in search of his second straight title, promises the championship bout won’t be a disappointment.
“He’s a true freshman and a hell of a wrestler,” Dubuque said of Nickerson. “He’s got more to prove than me, I’ve already proved myself. Right now if he wants to be a NCAA champion, he has to come through me. He’s going to have to take the belt away from me.”
Rinaldi gave Cornell its second semifinal qualifier and All-American, defeating the 197-pound bracket’s No. 2 seed, Kyle Cerminala, by a score of 3-1. After no scoring in the first period, Rinaldi gained the riding time advantage in the second, blanketing Cerminala for the entire two minutes. After Cerminala scored an escape to tie the score at the start of the third, an exhausted Rinaldi fought off the stocky Buffalo wrestler the rest of the way, eventually jumping into assistant coach Clint Wattenberg’s ’03 arms in jubilation at the conclusion of the match. The Lodi, N.J., native captured the first All-America honor of his career.
Rinaldi eventually fell for the first time in the tournament to Penn State’s Phil Davis by a score of 7-4. Rinaldi got behind early and trailed, 4-1, after the second period. He then scored an escape and a takedown before time expired, but it wasn’t enough to oust the talented Davis. Rinaldi will face Oklahoma’s Joel Flaggert in this morning’s action.
Senior Joe Mazzurco wrestled in the Red’s second quarterfinal match of the day, dropping a 10-6 decision to Oregon’s Shane Webster. Trying to use his quickness to his advantage, Mazzurco shot early and often, much to Webster’s liking, as the Oregon wrestler shifted his weight repeatedly for two takedowns in the first period. Trailing 8-4 going into the third, Mazzurco tried to muster some offense but was shut down by Webster as he scored a double leg takedown late in the match.
Mazzurco advanced to today’s action by defeating Kent State’s Alex Carmargo, 4-3, and Penn State’s Eric Bradley, 11-4. With the win over Bradley, Mazzurco assured himself of his second straight All-America honor. He will wrestle this morning against Illinois’ Peter Friedl.
Manotti won his two matches during session III, defeating West Virginia’s Matt Lebe in the morning, 6-3, and Northern Iowa’s Chris Bitetto by major decision in the early afternoon, 12-4. Manotti controlled both matches the entire way through, accumulating riding time advantages of 1:17 and 2:12 in both matches, respectively.
Senior Dan Miracola was eliminated from the tournament in his first match of the day, coming up short against Edinboro’s Eric Ring by a score of 4-2. After a takedown and some near fall points put Miracola’s deficit to four early in the first, Miracola tried to fight his way back by earning a point late for an escape and another thanks to stalling by Ring. Miracola ended his last season with the Red.
Manotti earned his fourth career All-America honor by defeating Illinois’ Alex Tirapelle and Wisconsin’s Craig Henning by scores of 6-4 and 7-3, respectively. He is set to face Iowa’s Joe Johnston in today’s morning session.
While four Red wrestlers are still alive in the tournament’s final day, three Cornell wrestlers were eliminated from competition yesterday.
Senior Mike Mormile defeated Harvard’s Robbie Preston, 9-3, in his first match of the day. Wrestling in the 133-pound consolation bracket, Mormile and Preston wrestled to a stalemate in the first period, as each wrestler was unable to score any points. Preston got on the board first with 1:13 left in the second, scoring on an escape. Mormile took the lead with a takedown but Preston tied it back up at two with another escape. A Mormile takedown and three near fall points as time expired were the difference, with Mormile coming out on top.
Despite winning his first match of the day, Mormile was then eliminated from the tournament by the No. 9 seed, Scott Jorgenson of Boise State. The match was close the entire way, with no scoring in the first and second periods. After starting on top in the third, Mormile allowed an escape and was eventually taken down twice in the third, losing by a score of 6-1. Jorgenson accumulated a 2:58 in riding time advantage. The match was the last of Mormile’s brilliant career in a Red singlet.
Junior Keith Dickey also survived the morning, beating West Virginia’s David Jauregui by a score of 7-2. Jauregui took the early lead, scoring a takedown 45 seconds into the bout. However, Dickey responded by scoring a point on an escape and then added another takedown to take the 3-2 lead going into the second period. Although no scoring took place in the second, Dickey put the pressure on Jauregui by riding him for the entire two minutes. Dickey scored another takedown in the third and was awarded an extra point for racking up 2:48 of riding time.
Dickey was eventually eliminated from tournament competition in the early afternoon, dropping his next match against John Cox of Navy. The tough competitor scored an early takedown on Dickey, riding him out for the duration of the second period. After starting out on top, Cox eventually cemented his victory with a two-point reversal on Dickey in the third. Dickey gained a point for an escape, but it was too little too late as Cox was awarded a bonus point for riding time advantage in his 5-1 victory.
The Red will look to improve on yesterday’s performance in today’s session V. The team is currently 2 ½ team points behind fifth place Arizona State.
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Assistant Sports Editor