March 17, 2007

Wrestlers Earn Four All-America Honors

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich — Day 2 was one to remember, and yet one to forget for Red wrestling at the NCAA Division I Wrestling championships held inside the Palace of Auburn Hills yesterday. After sitting in sixth place after Day 1, Cornell wrestlers went 2-6 during the day’s morning session, only to rebound in a night session which saw two Cornell wrestlers win their first-ever All-America honors. In all, Cornell was secured of four All-Americans, amongst them sophomores Troy Nickerson, Jordan Leen, Josh Arnone and senior Jerry Rinaldi. Despite the accolades, the Red left the Palace disappointed from a team standpoint after several miscues — all of which resulted in a No. 13 standing after four sessions. Currently, the team sits five team points behind No. 10 Ohio State with the four All-Americans all wrestling in today’s morning session. Unfortunately, Cornell was denied of having at least one finalist in today’s night session for the first time in three years.

“I figured we’d have four All-Americans,” Koll said. “I also thought we’d have a couple more, but you can’t be dissatisfied. It’s a good sign when you have half of your guys finish as All-Americans and yet you’re still disappointed. There once was a time where we would have been thrilled to have that many, but now the expectations are so much higher.”

The reigning national runner up at 125 pounds, Nickerson started yesterday’s morning session by defeating Indiana’s Angel Escobedo by a score of 2-0. After a scoreless first period, Nickerson won the coin toss and deferred to the first-time NCAA qualifier. After riding the Hoosier for the entire duration of the second, Nickerson then used an escape in the third period and avoided a late Escobedo flurry of attacks to seal the victory. With the win, the Chenango Forks, N.Y., native assured Cornell its first All-American of the tournament.

Wrestling in the semifinals, Nickerson was robbed of his second consecutive trip to the finals after referees penalized him for stalling in the second tiebreaker against Nebraska’s Paul Donahoe. After a scoreless first period, Nickerson and Donahoe traded escapes in periods two and three to arrive at overtime deadlocked at one. After 11 minutes of wrestling, Nickerson lost his high grip on Donahoe and was forced scrambling for control of a single leg. Despite the seconds ticking down towards zero, referees called Nickerson for stalling and subsequently handed the match to Nebraska’s No. 6 seed. After complaints from Cornell coaches, Donahoe and Nickerson left the mat amidst boos from a displeased crowd.

“To let a ref decide a match like that is just insane,” said head coach Rob Koll. “Troy was the aggressor the whole match and yet he gets hit for stalling. It’s just a travesty. Still, a lot of great guys went down today. That’s what it’s all about.”

Donahoe saw the altercation from a different point of view.

“It was really going fast and I just kept kicking as hard as I could,” Donahoe said. “I wasn’t surprised by the referee’s decision to call stalling because I’ve seen that called in matches before if they’re not trying to move their legs. I tried to keep driving towards him. Either I’m going to get away or he’s going to get called for stalling.”

Jordan Leen got off to a slow start in the morning’s action, losing a 6-2 decision to Edinboro’s Gregor Gillespie. Although Leen scored a takedown in the bout’s opening seconds, Gillespie used a reversal and two near fall points with 20 seconds left in the first period to take control of the match. With Gillespie extending his lead in the second period by scoring a two-point reversal, Leen chose to wrestle from the neutral position in the third. Despite a barrage of hand fighting and multiple shot attempts, Leen failed to get inside on Gillespie and wrestled him to a scoreless last period.

[img_assist|nid=22209|title=Striking while hot|desc=Sophomore Jordan Leen earned his first-ever All-America honor in yesterday’s night session|link=popup|align=left|width=100|height=69]

Leen would storm back in yesterday’s later session, earning Cornell’s second All-America honor by defeating Appalachian State’s No. 7 ranked Scott Ervin. After a first period takedown and three near fall points, Leen surrendered only an escape the rest of the match in securing the 5-1 victory. Leen’s second match of the night session was cast in controversy, with Leen coming out on the short end of a 6-5 decision to Wisconsin’s Tyler Turner. Scoring a takedown late in the third period to cut the match to 5-4, Leen was penalized a point for stalling and appeared to erase Turner’s riding time advantage by riding out the rest of the period. However, the clock read 1:00 minute exactly after all was said and done, despite the fact that the riding time clock was ticking down half a second faster than that of the real time clock. After discussion and debate, the decision was upheld and Turner was awarded the victory. Leen faces Indiana’s Matt Coughlin this morning for seventh place.

“The understanding was that if I rode him out I was going to overtime,” Leen said. “I felt like I was starting to get my feet underneath me and the plan was to get after him in the overtime period. I guess the clock was off by a tenth of a second or something like that. It happens and I guess its just bad karma for not wrestling hard. Obviously I haven’t wrestled my best tournament, but it’s nice to be named an All-American. It’s a relief.”

Cornell’s feel good story of the day came at 184 pounds, where Arnone earned All-America honors despite suffering from back problems in session III. In the day’s night session, Arnone pinned Indiana’s Marc Bennett in 1:24 amidst much jubilation from the Cornell faithful. Arnone then met Edinboro’s Alex Clemsen, but lost a hard fought 3-2 battle. Arnone wrestles for seventh place today against Harvard’s Louis Caputo.

“Josh is a pleasant surprise,” Koll said. “He wrestled hard yesterday and wrestled hard today.”

After upsetting No. 3 seed Mike Pucillo of Ohio State on Thursday, Arnone was forced to earn his way to All-America honors in the night session after being pinned in 1:46 by Iowa State’s Jake Varner. Despite wrestling closely for more than a minute, Arnone was thrown and twisted onto his back after being caught with an inside head lock. After the match, Arnone lay motionless for 10 minutes under the supervision of trainer Chris Scarlatta, but eventually got up and left the mat under his own power. The cause of the scare was due to a strained back muscle which Arnone favored as left the floor.

In a make or break match for a semifinal berth, senior Jerry Rinaldi faced off against No. 5 seeded Phil Davis of Penn State in a battle of All-Americans. The streak of winless matches against last year’s 197-pound runner up continued as Rinaldi was neutralized in a hard fought and highly contested 6-3 morning session loss. Although the two wrestlers entered the second period scoreless, Rinaldi’s game plan to wrestle neutral to start the middle period got the best of him as Davis scored a takedown with 19 seconds to go. Electing to start from the down position in the third, Davis added two escapes and a late take down to edge past the pride of Lodi, N.J.

Rinaldi impressed in rebounding like a true veteran during the night session, winning against Maryland’s Hudson Taylor to secure his second consecutive All-America honor. In the night session’s last match of the night, Rinaldi then defeated Michigan’s Nick Roy by a score of 2-0 for a chance to wrestle for third place in tomorrow’s morning session. Rinaldi will face Hofstra’s Chris Weidman at the start of session V today.

“It’s not easy to come back after a loss,” Koll said. “I’m just extremely proud. You have to be in that situation, looking at how he responded.”

One of the tournament’s most unfortunate events took place before the morning session even started. At 10:00 a.m., one hour before the start of quarterfinal and wrestle back action, sophomore Adam Frey’s season long struggle to make weight at 133 pounds finally caught up with him. Due to his inability to shed last minute pounds at the morning’s weigh-in, Frey was disqualified from wrestling against Missouri’s Tyler McCormick and his one team point earned in yesterday’s action was deducted from Cornell’s team total. Frey was the No. 3 seed at 133 pounds and leaves the tournament without All-America honors.

“It just comes down to discipline,” Koll said. “He had his weight close and chose to make some personal decisions that put his weight cutting in jeopardy. It’s a major weakness he needs to work on. You can’t go drink water before a weigh-in when your weight is that close. It’s something you practice just like technique.”

Junior Steve Anceravage started the day’s action in impressive fashion, defeating Bucknell’s Andrew Rendos by a score of 4-2. After securing riding time in the second period, Anceravage used an escape and a takedown in the third period to eliminate Bucknell’s only wrestler from the tournament. The sweet feeling of success wouldn’t last long, as Anceravage was later eliminated in session III’s last string of wrestle back matches. Pitted against Central Michigan’s Mike Miller, Anceravage surrendered a takedown in each of the first two periods and could only manage escapes in his final action of the tournament. Anceravage was the tournament’s No. 8 seed at 165 pounds. He went 2-2 at this year’s tournament, earning his first victory by way of pin.

Senior Joey Hooker’s season ended in the morning session after a 3-0 loss to Navy’s Matt Stolpinski at 174 pounds. Stolpinski, the No. 8 seed who was upset in yesterday’s first round, used a first-period takedown and a second period escape to seal the victory. Despite a late effort by Hooker to cut the lead to one, Stolpinski held strong and held off all attempted shots. Hooker left the tournament with a 1-2 record.