The wrestling team reasserted itself as one of the elite teams in the country this weekend as the No. 16 Red downed two nationally-ranked opponents in one day, topping No. 5 Hofstra, 22-18, and trampling No. 24 Columbia, 30-9, in New York City on Saturday. After beginning the season with an unimpressive 1-5 dual meet record, Cornell (4-5, 1-0 Ivy) has responded by winning its past three meets in decisive fashion.
“To be quite honest with you we were never very nervous about our losses,” said head coach Rob Koll. “These two wins confirm what we knew all year — that we are very good when fully healthy. And the best is yet to come.”
The grapplers began their action-packed day by traveling to the New York Athletic Club to take on No. 5 Hofstra, the highest ranked opponent the team has faced since its 32-11 loss to No. 1 Minnesota on Jan. 13. Yet, this time, a healthy Red team was up to the challenge, as Cornell was able to overcome losing three of its first four matches to eventually upset the Pride, 22-18.
“We matched up very well against them so I did expect to win,” Koll said. “When it was over, no one on our side was jumping up and down. … I’m actually slightly disappointed we didn’t beat them worse.”
[img_assist|nid=21124|title=Feel The Pain|desc=Senior Luke Hogle (left), pictured wrestling against Ohio St. on Nov. 26, defeated Joe Rovelli at 184 pounds in Cornell’s 22-18 upset win over Hofstra on Friday.|link=none|align=left|width=85|height=100]
The story of the day was the effort of senior Luke Hogle, who turned the entire momentum of the match around by scoring a 12-4 major decision victory over No. 7 Joe Rovelli at 184 pounds. Without sophomore Josh Arnone in the lineup, Koll asked Hogle — who usually wrestles at 174 — to fill in at 184 pounds; the results caught almost everyone on the team by surprise.
“It was not a match we expected to win, but he went out there and took it to him,” Koll said. “That gave us a lot of momentum going into [senior co-captain] Jerry [Rinaldi’s] match.”
Hogle’s upset at 184 jump-started Cornell, as the team went on to win its next four matches to take control of the meet. Rinaldi — ranked No. 4 at 197 — grinded out a 4-2 victory over No. 11 Chris Weidman, while heavyweight junior Zach Hammond made it three in a row with a 2-1 tiebreaker win over Matt Pollock.
Sophomore co-captain Troy Nickerson won by forfeit and classmate Adam Frey — ranked No. 3 in the country — completed the five-match streak with a 7-5 win over No. 19 Lou Ruggirello at 133.
After upsetting the only team to beat top-ranked Minnesota all season, Cornell continued its success by dominating No. 24 Columbia 30-6 Saturday night to win its first Ivy League contest of the season.
“I could tell Columbia expected to beat us,” Koll said. “And we also have a big recruiting battle with them, so its nice to show the recruits the results — we’ve got a heck of a team.”
Unlike its previous match, Cornell was able to jump out to an early lead and never look back, as Red grapplers won 7-of-10 matches to handily win against its Ivy league rival. Nickerson started off the match with a 4-0 shutout victory over Brandon Kinney at 125, and classmate Adam Frey followed it up with an 11-1 major decision over No. 17 Matt DeLorenzo at 133 to give Cornell a quick 7-0 lead.
After Columbia’s Sal Tirico beat Matt Easter at 141, junior No. 4 Jordan Leen and sophomore Drake Hovis essentially closed out the match with back-to-back pins at 149 and 157, respectively.
“Drake’s win was huge for us because we weren’t expecting to win that match,” Koll said. “He beat a kid, [Devin Mesanko] who handled him earlier in the year at the Las Vegas Invitational.”
With the EIWA championships less than a month away and the NCAA championships just a week after that, Koll is pleased that his team is gaining momentum at the right time.
“This part of the schedule is where the team builds up some confidence before going into the big tournaments,” he said. “We should be able to handle all of the teams in the Ivy League as we keep our focus on the national tournament.”