February 16, 2007

Grapplers Aim to Claim Ancient Eight Crown

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The No. 12 wrestling team looks to win its sixth consecutive Ivy League title this weekend when it travels to Cambridge to take on Harvard tonight, and then heads south to square off against Brown and Delaware St. tomorrow evening. Needing only a win against Harvard to clinch the championship, the Red (6-5, 3-0 Ivy) is very confident it will take care of business in its final dual matches of the 2006-2007 season.

“I expect to win both matches,” said head coach Rob Koll. “We can’t take them lightly because Harvard has some very good wrestlers, but our season is always geared towards preparing for the NCAA championships. We want to do well, just not at the cost of sacrificing being physically prepared for nationals.”

As a result, Koll will rest a number of his key starters over the course of the weekend, including No. 2 sophomore co-captain Troy Nickerson, No. 3 sophomore Adam Frey and junior Steve Anceravage. No. 4 junior Jordan Leen will only participate in his match against Crimson freshman No. 6 J.P. O’Connor, who is 27-4 overall on the year, including an 11-0 mark in the Ivy League. However, senior co-captain No. 3 Jerry Rinaldi will wrestle in both matches as well as the majority of the Red’s starting lineup.
[img_assist|nid=21439|title=Hold him tight|desc=Freshman Corey Manson (right) attempts a takedown against Princeton’s Danny Scotton during Cornell’s 56-0 win last Saturday.|link=none|align=left|width=77|height=100]
“Jerry’s a workhorse and he’ll be in there,” Koll said. “You can’t rest everyone because then a match that shouldn’t be close turns out to be.”

In addition to O’Connor, Harvard (5-6, 2-1) has a number of talented wrestlers that might pose a legitimate threat to the Cornell grapplers. Senior Max Melter, who wrestled at the Blair Academy with Frey, is 14-3 on the year at 141 pounds. Sophomore Louis Caputo also boasts an 18-7 mark, including a 5-2 record in conference play.

“We have a couple of key matchups against Harvard, including myself,” Leen said. “Besides that, the real focus is just getting the wins. The matches against all three teams will be a great opportunity for some of our backups to step in there and contribute.”

Brown (3-11, 1-2) is coming off of a disappointing, 22-12 loss against Boston University last weekend. The Bears are currently fifth in the Ivy League, with losses to Harvard, 27-15, and No. 14 Penn, 33-4. Brown’s only win in Ivy play was a 47-0 shutout victory over a weak Princeton squad.

Delaware St. (0-13) has struggled all year long to field a competitive team, often being forced to forfeit at multiple weight classes during dual meets; most of their losses were one-sided affairs, including a 52-0 loss to Bloomsburg on Dec. 17.

With just two weekends remaining before the EIWA championships in E. Stroudsburg, Penn., and one month before the NCAA championships, the Red’s starting lineup is locked in and the team has its sights set on capturing the team’s third EIWA championship under Rob Koll.

“If everyone is healthy and everyone wrestles well, we will win it,” Koll said. “On paper, it looks like we should win it, and I would be disappointed if we didn’t.”

Leen also speaks very highly of his team, echoing Koll’s sentiments.

“We feel like we have the strongest team and we’re really starting to mesh, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t finally get the EIWA title,” he said.

Furthermore, the team is also confident it can make a deep run in the NCAA National championships over spring break.

“Minnesota is really hard to beat and the title is theirs to lose,” Koll said. “But this is probably the most talented team I have coached at Cornell. … All 10 guys in the starting lineup are physically gifted enough to be All-Americans and at least four guys have a legitimate shot at winning it all. … Only time will tell.”