November 28, 2007

Freshman Lewnes’ Success Not a Surprise

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What does the Xbox 360, the Village People and the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. all have in common? Mack Lewnes, of course. Although seemingly unrelated, they are actually all connected to Cornell’s standout freshmen wrestler.
Lewnes, a native of Annapolis MD., has already proved himself worthy of the hype. Competing in the 165 pound category in the first dual meet of the season against Wisconsin, Lewnes made short work of Jake Donar. Early in the second period, Lewnes turned Donar from the down position and pinned him with 4:37 left. The six team points creating a shift in momentum that nearly turned into a come from behind win for the Red.
The next day, in the Body Bar Invitational, Lewnes was one of four teammates to win individual titles, dominating his weight class with multiple early pins while also earning team bonus points. With his help, Cornell took home the competition’s team title for the third straight year.
But success on the mat is nothing new for Mack, as the freshman racked up a 187-13 record and four straight Maryland state championships before coming to East Hill.
What’s this underclassmen’s secret? Well, for one thing, Lewnes is not your average freshman. Although this is his first year in college, Lewnes spent last year at the Olympic Training Center, taking a year off after his all-star high school career to train with the country’s finest wrestlers and Olympic contenders.
“Basically it was a year to grow, a year to train and get better,” Lewnes said. “It was almost like a red shirt year.”
Wrestling head coach Rob Koll was instrumental in helping Lewnes get into the special training program.
“The kid was really, really good [in high school],” Koll said. Lewnes really got Koll’s attention however when, as a sophomore, he defeated Steve Anceravage, who was then a senior in high school. Today they wrestle together for Cornell.
“Steve’s always been a team player,” Koll said. “If it wasn’t for him getting whipped by Mack, then Mack might not be here today.”
Koll said that the year has really benefited Lewnes, both in maturity and confidence.
“You wrestle everyday with our country’s finest, “ Koll said. “And then to go up against college kids, you don’t have the intimidation factor” often experienced by freshmen new to collegiate wrestling.
Koll said that often freshmen have a rough time transitioning from high school, where they were big fish in a small pond, to Cornell, where suddenly everyone is a state champion.
“This can be a difficult emotional hurdle,” Koll said. “But [Lewnes] has been able to bypass the freshman transition. He doesn’t have to pay any of those dues, he already got those losses out in the practice room.”
On Cornell’s official sports website, Lewnes is listed as graduating with a perfect GPA. Although he maintains that for the most part this semester has been a quiet one, Lewnes admits he has picked up some bad habits that his profile omits. According to Koll, Lewnes loves playing Assassin’s Creed on his Xbox.
“Yes, I’m addicted,” Lewnes said. “And I am not ashamed. I enjoy it so much.”
But the freshman said he tries to keep this particular passion to himself.
“There is a negative stereotype that you have to be immature and geeky to play video games,” he said.
Lewnes also said his recent Halloween costume would make his mom cringe. This wrestler showed a different, more uninhibited side of himself in Collegetown, dressed up as the biker from the Village People.
“It was pretty revealing,” he said.