January 21, 2008

Wrestlers Ready For League Play

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Dogged by injury, Cornell’s wrestling team spent the winter break preparing for the upcoming Ivy League matches coming up in February. The Red placed third at the Reno Tournament of Champions Dec. 18, fourth at the Southern Scuffle in South Carolina and then went 1-4 in January at Penn St. (10-35), Iowa (3-32), Indiana (22-19) and a second match against the Nittany Lions (9-31). Cornell is currently ranked 16th in the country by the USA Today Division I Coaches Poll.
We had far too many injuries,” said head coach Rob Koll, “and we’re finally now just getting healthy again.”
Despite the losses, Koll said that Cornell’s competition was “fantastic,” with the Red going up against teams ranked at or near the top nationally.
In Reno, Cornell walked away with two individual titles — junior Jordan Leen at 157 pounds and freshman Mack Lewnes at 165 pounds.
Cornell’s underclassmen performed well, as freshman Mike Grey (133 pounds) won four of his five bouts to take third place, defeating the No. 3 seed from Cal Poly in the process. Freshman Justin Kerber and sophomore Michael Moore also wrestled well in the meet (at 174 and 184 pounds, respectively).
“The story of the break has been the super freshmen,” Koll said. Lewnes and Grey were consistently in the top seeds throughout the break. They are both currently ranked third in the country, according to Koll, and are two of the highest ranked freshmen in the country. Typically, it is hard for a freshman to be considered among the top wrestlers in his weight class because he has less experience and has wrestled in fewer total matches — “But these are not ‘normal’ freshmen,” Koll said.
At the Southern Scuffle on Dec. 29 and 30, Lewnes won another individual title, while Grey finished second in his weight class. Juniors Steve Anceravage and Zach Hammond earned third and fourth place finishes, respectively.
The list of wrestlers who dropped out of the Southern Scuffle ended up being just as important as the list of winners, however.
“[It] was a perfect storm for the team,” Koll said. “Three or four guys went down [due to injuries] in 30 minutes. I stopped walking on any sidewalks with cracks, and avoiding all black cats and ladders. It was just awful.”
Among the injured was junior Leen, who had entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed. He won his first match in a major decision before losing the second by medical forfeit after suffering a badly sprained ankle.
In the first competition of the new year, Cornell traveled to Penn St. on Jan. 4 for its second dual meet of the season. Despite two more individual victories for the impressive freshmen duo of Lewnes and Grey, as well as a win by junior Zach Hammond in the heavyweight category, Cornell ultimately lost the meet by a total of 25 points. The Nittany Lions led the match early, holding a 12-3 team score lead going after the 149 pound class (which Cornell forfeited).
Junior Anceravage lost his match at 174 pounds in a 6-3 victory against Penn St.’s David Erwin. The Nittany Lions (8-2) are currently ranked seventh in the nation.
On Jan. 12, the Red traveled to Cedar Falls, Iowa for the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals. Cornell faced No. 2 seed Iowa (now the top-ranked team in the country) in the opening round of the meet. The Hawkeyes won all but one of their matches, with freshman Grey preventing a complete Iowa sweep.
In the second match of the day, Cornell defeated Indiana University, with Grey picking up his second win in as many attempts. Lewnes, Anceravage, Kerber and Hammond all won their matches for Cornell.
The Red’s last opponent at the duals was the top seed — Penn St. The Nittany Lions won seven of their ten bouts, with Grey, Lewnes and Anceravage the only Cornell wrestlers to earn victories. Grey was a perfect three-for-three on the day.
Despite his team’s mixed results, Koll said that he is excited to see his team wresting at full strength again going into the most important part of the season.
“We’re pretty much the best 1-4 team in the country. I think we are getting ready to peak at exactly the right time,” he said.