After a slightly disappointing 12th-place finish at last year’s NCAA championship, the wrestling team — picked No. 4 in W.I.N. Magazine’s preseason Division I rankings — appears poised to regain the form that helped the Red capture consecutive top-5 finishes in the NCAA tournament the previous two years.
“I don’t think we’ve ever returned three All-Americans to the team in the history of Cornell wrestling,” said head coach Rob Koll. “We have the basis for one of the best teams we’ve ever had, as long as we stay healthy.”
The squad will be led by a trio of returning junior All-Americans who have their sights set on a national championship — two-time All-American Troy Nickerson, who finished third in the country last year at 125 pounds, Jordan Leen at 157 and Josh Arnone at 184.
Nickerson, who was the runner-up at the 2006 NCAA championships, placed third a season ago after he lost his semifinal match in double overtime to Nebraska’s Paul Donahue. The five-time New York state champion and 2005 high school national champion was 17-3 record as a sophomore, and will look to capture an elusive collegiate individual championship at 125 pounds this season to add to his long list of accolades. Nickerson ranks second behind Donahue, who took first at the NCAA tournament last season, in WI.N. Magazine’s rankings at 125.
Nickerson will be backed up by two-time Washington high school state champion and Greco-Roman Jr. National Champion Mike Rodriguez.
The starter at 133 will be a fierce battle between two New Jersey products, senior Nick Bridge of Galloway and freshman Mike Grey of Delbarton. Bridge was a former first, second and third place finisher at the N.J. High School championships, but has yet to see significant action with the Red. Grey comes to Cornell as one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation, as he was the first wrestler ever to become a four-time New Jersey state champion. He was also a freestyle junior national champion. Only time will tell whether experience or raw talent will win the starting spot at 133.
Moving up a weight class for his second year in a Cornell singlet is sophomore Adam Frey. Wrestling at 133 pounds as a freshman, Frey accumulated a 16-4 record, placed second at the EIWA tournament, was named to the All-Ivy second team and was a NCAA qualifier. The Blair Academy alum won three national prep championships and a high school national championship before coming to the Red. He is currently ranked 10th in the nation at 141. Corey Manson, last year’s starter at 141, is taking this year off to pursue a business internship.
With Jordan Leen, last year’s All-American at 149, moving up to 157 to start the season, the starting job in this weight class is up for grabs. The frontrunners for the position are sophomore Brian Alves, a two-time fifth-place finisher in California and freshman D.J. Meagher, who accumulated two New England championships and sixth-place finish at the high school nationals over his high school career. Oft-injured former starters and fellow seniors Charlie Agozzino and Matt Easter will both return to campus in the second semester, and should compete for the spot upon their return.
After spending the off-season packing on muscle, junior Jordan Leen will be a team leader and the starter at 157. Leen went 37-7 overall last season at 149 pounds, captured an EIWA title, was a first-team All-Ivy honoree, and placed eighth at the NCAA tournament. Last year’s starter, classmate Drake Hovis, will also compete for playing time in the weight class.
With returning All-American Steve Anceravage moving up to 174, freshman Mack Lewnes will look to fill the void at 165. Lewnes is a four-time Maryland state champion and two-time national prep champion. Two-time NCAA qualifier Joey Hooker returns to campus for the second semester and plans to compete for the starting spot at 165 pounds after wrestling at 174 pounds for the past two seasons.
Steve Anceravage — ranked No. 5 in the nation by W.I.N. magazine — will move up to 174 pounds this season after experiencing great success at 165. The two-time national qualifier and defending EIWA champion posted a 23-6 record last season, earning a spot on the All-Ivy first-team. Backing up Anceravage is freshman Colin McDonald, who is a two-time New York state champ.
All-American junior Josh Arnone was ranked No. 6 in the preseason polls but will miss the first half of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery earlier this year, and may move up to 197 upon his return. Therefore, a bunch of talented grapplers will look to snag the starting spot at 184. Among them are sophomore Michael Moore, who was Missouri state champion and high school national runner-up, and freshman Justin Kerber, who was a two-time Iowa state champion and high school All-American. Also in the mix are sophomore Nate Holley, a two-time state place winner from Illinois, and freshmen Jason Winckle and Travis Dale.
Filling the shoes of two-time All-American Jerry Rinaldi ’07 will be a tough task. The leading candidate is sophomore Taylor Moore, who was a former Missouri state champion and Junior World Team member. Senior Doug Weidner has seen limited action for the Red at heavyweight but will compete for the starting job at 197 this year.
Junior Zach Hammond, battled through injuries to have a breakout season last year, accruing a 28-10 overall record to go along with a runner-up finish at the EIWA tournament and first team All-Ivy honors. The returning NCAA qualifier is currently ranked 18th by W.I.N. magazine in the preseason polls. Hammond will be challenged for the starting spot by freshman Maciej Jochym, a New York state champion and high school All-American.