January 19, 2007

Cornell Prepares to Grapple EIWA Rival, Arizona State

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The wrestling team will look to prove just how talented it really is this weekend as the No. 11 Red squad will travel to Bethlehem, Penn., to face longtime EIWA rival No. 25 Lehigh tonight and then return home to host Arizona State on Sunday.

Cornell’s unimposing dual match record of 1-4 can mostly be attributed to a barrage of injuries the team has been crippled by all season long. But going into this weekend’s action, the team is finally healthy.

[img_assist|nid=20799|title=To the matresses|desc=Senior Jerry Rinaldi will be back in action this weekend after missing three weeks due to a concussion.|link=node|align=left|width=88|height=100]

“I’m not typically one to put much emphasis on dual meets, but I really want to win this one,” said head coach Rob Koll. “This is really the first time all year that we have our team back and fully healthy so we have no excuses. We want to go in there in front of their home crowd and show everyone that there is no doubt that we’re the better team.”

The Red will have a tough task ahead, however, as Lehigh has captured five straight EIWA titles and has consistently beaten Cornell in head-to-head battles in the past. In 85 dual meets dating back to 1910, Cornell is 26-56-3 against the Mountain Hawks including a 3-5 record against them during Koll’s tenure.

Lehigh will be led by its two nationally ranked wrestlers, senior Paul Weibel and freshman David Craig. Weibel, who is 12-6 on the season, is ranked No. 15 at 285 pounds while Craig is ranked No. 19 at 184 and carries an 18-6 overall record coming into weekend.

Cornell will counter with a plethora of talent throughout its starting lineup. Sophomore co-captain and returning national runner-up Troy Nickerson will look to continue his dominance in the 125 weight class while senior co-captain Jerry Rinaldi, a three-time NCAA qualifier, will wrestle in his first match at 197 since suffering a concussion in the semifinals of the Southern Scuffle tournament three weeks ago.

Another Red wrestler who is sure to make a splash against Lehigh is undefeated sophomore Adam Frey, who burst onto the scene by upsetting three of the top-4 wrestlers at 133 pounds en route to a Southern Scuffle individual title in his first collegiate tournament.

“He’s not really a surprise to anyone who knows him since he was one of the most highly recruited kids coming out of high school in the nation,” Koll said. “He is healthy now after undergoing reconstructive shoulder surgery last year and there is no doubt in my mind that he can compete for a national title.”

After the Lehigh match the Red will return home to host its last Sunday charity match of the season against Arizona State (4-8, 1-1 Pac-10) in Newman Arena. For every fan in attendance the team will donate $3 to the Ithaca Public Library.

The Sun Devils are coming off a 2-2 performance at the Virginia Duals and have struggled with finding consistent success all season long. As a result, Cornell may rest a number of its starters to ensure their health as the team gets closer and closer to the NCAA championships.

“I am very excited for this weekend,” Koll said. “I’m not usually this confident but I really think that we’re going to do very well. With the talent on this team we have good chance to get a win in every individual match.”