November 16, 2007

Wrestlers Begin Hunt for NCAA Title Tonight

Print More

The wrestling team will have its first chance to defend its No. 4 ranking this weekend as it faces the No. 13 Wisconsin at Newman Arena tonight before competing in the Body Bar Invitational tomorrow morning.
The Wisconsin matchup is the first of 11 dual meets for the Red this season and poses an extra challenge for the grapplers, who have never beaten the Badgers before.
“The match means a lot,” said junior Jordan Leen. “Especially to all of our coaches who have never beaten Wisconsin before. And for a lot of us too; it is time for us to start competing again.”
The match will raise money for Hospice, through the Big Red’s Hospicare Challenge, with $3 from every person in attendance going to support the cause.
The home crowd should be in for quite a show, as both teams feature an assortment of nationally ranked wrestlers, many of whom are squaring off against one another.
One of the most anticipated matches is at 157 pounds between Leen and No. 1 ranked Craig Henning. Leen — who is ranked No. 7 at 149 pounds after earning the EIWA championship and All-American honors last year at that weight class — has moved up to 157 start the 2007-08 season.
“It should be a very exciting because we are both scramblers,” he said. “We are both tall and lanky and like to take a lot of chances. It should be fun coming in as an underdog to Henning and have an opportunity to upset him in front of a big home crowd; I’m ready to rock.”
Other key starters who have moved up a weight class are sophomore Adam Frey and junior Steve Anceravage. Frey, the returning Ivy League Rookie of the Year and NCAA tournament qualifier, is ranked No. 10 at 133 pounds, but will square off against Wisconsin’s Kendall Vogel tonight at 141 pounds. Anceravage was an EIWA champion, NCAA qualifier and ranked No. 5 at 165 pounds, but will be wrestling Matt Maciag at 174 pounds tonight.
“[Moving up] is just the best thing for our bodies right now,” Leen said. “We will be feeling bigger, stronger and healthier as we gear towards the NCAA championships. It’s a new challenge for us.”
With injuries to All-American juniors Troy Nickerson — who placed third at 125 at last year’s NCAA tournament — and Josh Arnone at 184, many newcomers will make their first starts for the Red.
“[Senior] Zach Hammond is the only starter on the team who is not a brand new face or wrestling at a new weight class,” Leen said. “Nine guys are treading new water in this match.”
As a result, head coach Rob Koll’s highly touted freshman class will have the opportunity to immediately make an impact. Four-time New Jersey state champion Mike Grey will start at 133, 2006 New Jersey state champion Frank Perrelli will fill in for Nickerson at 125 and four-time Maryland state champ Mack Lewnes will get the nod at 165.
“[The freshmen] are phenomenal, their results speak for themselves,” Leen said. “I was impressed how mature they wrestle for freshmen; they are very composed, confident and have a lot of mental toughness out there. They wrestle like they are seniors.”
Sophomore newcomer Matt Panasevich and classmates Nate Holley or Justin Kerber will round out the starting lineup at 197 and 184 pounds, respectively.
After the dual match with Wisconsin, these 10 wrestlers will have little time to recover, as they must turn right around and compete in the Body Bar Invitational tomorrow morning. Cornell has won the event each of the past two years, and must plow through a deep and talented field to make it three in a row. The field is composed of roughly 10 squads from all over the nation, including No. 13 Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Kent State and Drexel.
But according to Leen, the team is not concerned about the quick turnaround between the two matches.
“We have to get our bodies used to competing day after day,” he said.