February 18, 2008

Wrestling Team Takes Down Penn, Princeton on Road

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All things considered, it was a pretty good Saturday for Cornell wrestling. It’s hard to do better than a sweep of Ivy rival Penn, 19-15, followed by a shut out of Princeton, 48-0, all in pretty much the same amount of time it takes to watch the Oscars. And although the Red is not looking for any Academy Award next weekend, its five straight wins and perfect Ivy record greatly increase the chance that the team will take the Ivy League crown.
Cornell (6-5, 3-0 Ivy) traveled to Philadelphia to face an always-competitive Penn team at the Palestra.
“Historically, they’ve always been our rival, at least for the past 15 years,” said head coach Rob Koll. “I knew going in that it was going to be really tough. Something about the Penn rivalry really brings out the best in both teams.”
The match was tight all the way through, with several lead changes as the Quakers and the Red fought for the upper hand. It took until the second-to-last match to decide a winner, when senior Mike Rodriguez earned a clutch decision to clinch the win. Statistically, the match did not have a clear favorite, either.
“I would not have picked the match to end the way it did,” Koll said. “We could have shut them out, or they could have beaten us.”
The match started at 141 pounds, where senior Nick Bridge took on Penn’s Rick Rappo. Rappo started slow, but had jumped out to a quick lead by the close of the first period, earning a takedown and two nearfalls. At the beginning of the second period, he scored again with a reversal from the down position, pushing his lead to 10-0. Bridge scored for the first time at the start of the third period, earning an escape from the down position, and then strategically added points throughout the period in order to avoid a major decision, holding Rappo to a 12-5 win.
Freshman D.J. Meagher wrestled next, facing No. 13 Cesar Grajales at 149 pounds. Grajales controlled the first period, earning a takedown, which he followed up with an escape in the second. Meagher got on the board at the start of the third period with an escape of his own, but with riding time Grajales took the match in a 4-1 decision, giving Penn an early 6-0 lead.
Next it was Cornell’s turn to bring out some big guns, as No. 9-ranked senior captain Jordan Leen faced Rob Hitschler in the 157-pound category. The two wrestled to a scoreless first period, after which Leen took control, racking up an escape, a takedown and a little over a minute in riding time, to win the match 4-0.
Standing in for the injured Mack Lewnes — out with badly sprained ankle — was senior Joey Hooker at 165 pounds, wrestling in his first dual match of the season.
[img_assist|nid=27897|title=Flatliner|desc=Senior Mike Rodriguez (top) won a 14-4 upset over Robbie Peterkin, the nation’s No. 8 wrestler at 125 pounds. The win proved instrumental in Cornell’s defeat of Ivy foe Penn.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]“I have a great deal of faith in Joey,” Koll said. But No. 17 Zach Shanaman prevailed in a painfully close match, scoring only one point plus riding time, in a 2-0 decision.
Junior Steve Anceravage has been on fire for the Red in his last couple of matchups, and his Penn opponent Scott Griffin found out why very soon. Although Griffin scored first with an early first period takedown, Anceravage quickly countered with a takedown of his own followed by an escape to start the second period. Then with 4:14 left in the second Anceravage flipped Griffin, pinning him on his back. His six points moved Cornell up into a tie with Penn at 9.
At 184 pounds, sophomore Josh Arnone faced Lior Zamir, a wrestler he beat twice last year. The match turned out to be close, with both wrestlers losing and reclaiming the points lead.Arnone dominated the second period, but was unable to put Zamir away for good. With time running out, Zamir scored a takedown that decided the match in his favor, 4-3.
Freshman Justin Kerber, who has been an invaluable addition for the Red recently, showed his versatility once again, wrestling Thomas Shovlin at 197 pounds. Shovlin earned a takedown late in the first period to take the lead, but Kerber answered with an escape to start the second period. With 43 seconds left in the match, Kerber received two points for a takedown and carried the match 3-2.
No. 11 heavyweight Zach Hammond faced off next against Trey McLean. Hammond took an early lead with a takedown but then was injured, forcing him to take a timeout. Wrestling through the injury, Hammond tried to stay with McLean, but ultimately lost, 13-6.
With this win, Penn held a 15-12 lead going into the final two matches.
Senior Mike Rodriquez, at 125 pounds, faced a formidable opponent in No. 8 Robbie Peterkin. Rodriguez jumped out to an early lead, however, scoring six unanswered points in the first period. Peterkin managed to earn an escape with 1:15 left in the first. The second period was even, as Peterkin and Rodriguez grabbed two points each. Rodriguez only built upon his lead in the final period, amassing 14 total points and winning by major decision 14-4, reclaiming the lead for Cornell.
“On paper Mike Rodriguez was not supposed to get a major decision against the No. 8 in the country,” Koll said. “I’m just glad he unleashed hell on that kid at exactly the right time.”
In the final match, at 133 pounds, freshman Mike Grey clinched Cornell’s victory with a 14-7 win by decision. Grey earned six takedowns during the match, his 32nd win this season.
The Red had little time to celebrate its victory, however, as the team was due for its 5 p.m. match against Princeton.
“If we had lost, I wouldn’t have let them shower,” Koll said.
Thankfully, the team was clean as they climbed on the bus for the trip to New Jersey. The wrestlers arrived in time for five minutes of warm-up, and then the match began.
As it turned out, those five minutes were more than enough, as Cornell swept every weight category, defeating its Tiger opponents in all nine matches.
Princeton forfeited three matches, and Cornell earned two decisions and four wins by fall.
“[Princeton] is in a serious rebuilding phase,” Koll said. “That being said, we didn’t wrestle really well.”
Cornell, which currently resides at the top of the Ivy standings, is planning to keep doing what it has been doing as it looks toward the end of the Ivy season.
“At this point in the year,” Koll said, “the hay’s pretty much in the barn.”