February 4, 2008

Grapplers Upset No. 12 Hofstra in Decisive Win

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The buzzer-beater, the Hail Mary, the walk-off home run: these are the moments the sports world lives and dies by. Cornell’s wrestling team had its own taste of last-minute heroics Saturday night, as junior Steve Anceravage’s takedown with less than a second left in the match swung the score in his favor, electrifying the standing-room only crowd and dashing opponent Hofstra’s hopes for a comeback victory. No. 18 Cornell (2-5) stunned No. 12 Hofstra (11-6), 28-14, in front of the raucous wrestling faithful at Friedman Wrestling Center.
With the dual match win, Cornell goes into next Saturday’s meet against Columbia, the first Ivy League match of the season, riding a wave of newfound confidence.
“All year long we’ve had injuries and misfortunes,” Anceravage said. “But we’ve always known how good we can be. Now we’ve felt it, we’ve lived it. I don’t see us slowing down at all.”
Head coach Rob Koll said that the support of the crowd was incredible, and definitely was a factor in the team’s important victory.
“When we come [to the Friedman Center] we are extremely hard to beat,” Koll said. “What team is used to wrestling in an environment like this?”[img_assist|nid=27246|title=Leen and mean|desc=Junior Jordan Leen acknowledges the cheers of the crowd after his 12-4 major decision over Hofstra’s Johnny Bonilla-Bowman.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Hofstra seemed a little overwhelmed from the start, and Cornell wrestlers seemed to be consistently stronger and less fatigued as their matches progressed.
Contrary to the published program, Red sophomore Taylor Moore was the first to wrestle, going up against No. 8 Joe Rovelli in the 197-pound bracket. The match stayed scoreless through the first period, but Rovelli earned quick points in both the second and third points to win a 15-0 technical fall, earning five quick points for Hofstra.
The next match pitted No. 12 junior heavyweight Zach Hammond against Hoftra’s Tom Daddino. The match was fairly even, with both wrestlers battling back and forth for points. Daddino had a 4-3 lead with just over one minute left in the final period. However, with 16 seconds left in the match, Hammond pinned his opponent, winning the match and earning six points for Cornell.
At 125 pounds, senior Mike Rodriguez was the next to wrestle for the Red. Rodriguez stayed close with his opponent, No. 13 Dave Tomasette, during a scrappy and energetic first period, but was unable to earn crucial points in the next two periods, ultimately losing by decision, 11-5. With the win, Hofstra regained its team lead.
No. 2 freshman Mike Grey made everything look all too easy, scoring a two-point takedown and reversal, while limiting his opponent No. 6 Lou Ruggirello to one escape point. His 4-1 win by decision earned three points for the Red and the lead at 9-8.
The program listed both sophomore Adam Frey and Eric McGill as possible wrestlers 141 pounds. But Frey failed to make weight for the second time in a row, forcing Cornell to forfeit the match. The forfeit earned six points for Hofstra and they went into the intermission leading 14-9.
Koll was blunt about Frey’s future on the team.
“We can’t have that,” he said, referring to Frey’s weight issues. Whether Frey is kicked off the team or not is an issue that Koll said will have to be addressed soon. “That will be a decision the team makes,” he said.
Freshman D.J. Meagher was next to wrestle for the Red, at 149 pounds. Meagher looked strong throughout the entire match, dominating the first and second periods and forcing Pride wrestler Rotella to remain on the defensive for most of the match. Meagher finally earned the win by fall.
“A lot of people overlook [Meagher], “Koll said. “But he is just so aggressive and so powerful.”
The next match, at 157 pounds, was highly anticipated as it featured senior captain, and returning All-American, Jordan Leen, who is ranked ninth. Leen scored the first points of the match in the first 30 seconds, and never let his opponent, Johnny Bonilla-Bowman, get close. His 12-4 major decision added four points to Cornell’s team total, increasing the lead to 19-14.
The next match featured No. 4 freshman Mack Lewnes, wrestling against Hofstra’s Ryan Patrovich, at 165 pounds. Although the match was low-scoring, Lewnes kept his opponent off the scoreboard. Despite repeated official breaks for “blood time,” to clean up a cut on the Hofstra’s wrestler’s head, Lewnes built up a three-point lead going into the third period, and held on to win by decision, 3-1.
At 174 pounds, No. 10 Anceravage faced a formidable opponent in No.5 Alton Lucas, who had performed impressively earlier in the season at the Southern Scuffle. Anceravage and Lucas exchanged points during the first and second periods. There was an official injury timeout in the second period so that trainers could attend to Lucas’ eye. Koll’s young son wandered onto the mat at this point to check on the injured wrestler, much to the amusement of the crowd.
Lucas regained his lead at the beginning of the third period with an escape in the second minute. With six seconds left, Lucas led by one point, and both wrestlers headed back to the neutral position. Then, as the final seconds ticked down, Anceravage scored a takedown to win, stunning Hofstra and pulling the crowd to its feet.
Anceravage said that he had a plan going into the match and was happy to see it succeed exactly the way he would have liked it to.
“The goal was always to tire him out and wear him down,” Anceravage said. Game tape and past experience at the Southern Scuffle proved to Cornell that Lucas had a tendency to tire late in the match.
The win by Anceravage sealed the victory for Cornell.
Last to wrestle was sophomore All-American Josh Arnone, at 184 pounds. It was Arnone’s comeback match after taking off the first half of the season due to injury. Arnone ended the match on a high note, winning an 8-2 decision against Hofstra’s Justin Danz.
Koll said that this win just proves what the team has — that they have the talent to win against strong teams.
“We’re focusing on not peaking too soon, and staying fresh for the Ivies,” Koll said. He added that right now he doesn’t think his team should lose a match against any of their Ivy opponents this year.