February 22, 2008

Grapplers Can Clinch Sixth-Straight Ivy Title

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The No. 15 wrestling team will attempt to secure its sixth-straight Ivy League championship this weekend when it hosts Brown, Harvard and Bucknell at the Friedman Wrestling Cen­ter. Cornell (6-5, 3-0 Ivy), is fresh off a thrilling 19-15 victory over rival Penn and a 48-0 sweep of the hapless Prince­ton Tigers last weekend. Cornell will need a win over Brown (7-7, 2-1) tonight to wrap up a share of the title and a victory over Harvard (2-8, 1-2) tomorrow afternoon to complete an undefeated in-conference season and become the sole Ivy League champions.
“We expect to win all three matches and I would be very disappointed if we don’t,” said head coach Rob Koll. “Both Brown and Harvard have some pretty good individuals but our biggest hurdle in the Ivy League was Penn. We still can’t take anything for granted though.”
Junior Steve Anceravage echoed his coach’s confidence regarding this weekend’s matches.
“We definitely have the potential to sweep the entire weekend,” he said. “And out of the 30 individual matches, I think we will lose five at the most.”[img_assist|nid=28080|title=Getting an earful|desc=Freshman Mack Lewnes turns an opponent on his head during a dual match against Columbia, Feb. 8. Freshman Maciej Jochym will fill in for the injured Lewnes this weekend.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Some of the biggest obstacles for the Red are injuries to junior heavyweight Zach Hammond, freshman Mack Lewnes and senior Joey Hooker. Hammond, who earned All-Ivy first team accolades and was an NCAA qualifier a year ago, injured his elbow in the dual meet against Penn and despite valiantly finishing out the match, may be out for the rest of the season.
“He actually has a broken elbow and some ligament damage,” Koll said. “It is just a testament to how tough Zach is to not only finish the match last weekend but also to almost come back and beat his opponent with that kind of damage.”
Yet another talented Red freshman, Maciej Jochym, will fill in for Hammond this weekend. Jochym was the New York state champion at 215 pounds last year and has received rave reviews from his coaches and teammates.
“Maciej is just huge, he’s like a gorilla,” Anceravage said. “And he’s a very good wrestler, too. He did well for us at the Southern Scuffle and a couple of other tournaments earlier this year. We’re obviously going to miss Zach, but it is great to have this kind of depth on the team. Most squads don’t even have one good heavyweight, no less two of them.”
“He’s our Polish freshman sensation,” Koll said. “Maciej is very capable of qualifying for the NCAA tournament.”
The other key injuries for the Red occurred in the 165-pound weight class, where Lewnes is still nursing a bum ankle and Hooker sustained a knee injury last week against Penn. As a result, either senior Mike Mackie or junior Drake Hovis will step in to fill the gap in the starting lineup.
“We have such great depth that even with two guys out in one weight class, we still have very solid wrestlers who can fill in the hole,” Koll said. “I’m just happy that the three hurt guys only occupy two weight classes instead of three. I still feel good about our chances at 165 [pounds].”
Brown occupies the third spot in the Ivy League standings, but does not boast a single wrestler ranked in the top-20 in his weight class, as ranked by InterMat.com. According to Anceravage, the Bears’ Jeff Schell is a formidable opponent at 133 pounds, but the Red’s No. 2 ranked Mike Grey should not have any trouble beating him.
“We have Grey at 133 so I’m not that worried about it,” he said.
Harvard has only won two dual meets so far this season but, according to Koll, has been battling through a number of injuries all year.
“Harvard has a couple of good guys and most importantly, they now have all of their wrestlers back and healthy,” he said. “They are much improved because whereas they had to forfeit matches in some weight classes before, now they have a legitimate shot at winning those same weight classes. That could be up to a 12-point swing.”
The Crimson is led by sophomore J.P. O’Connor, who has racked up a 20-1 individual record on his way to a No. 2 ranking in the nation at 149 pounds.
“J.P. will be a very tough test for [freshman] D.J. Meagher,” Anceravge said.
Another intriguing battle will take place at 184 pounds, where Harvard’s Louis Caputo will square off against Cornell’s returning All-American junior Josh Arnone. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Caputo defeated Arnone in the EIWA tournament last season.
Bucknell (9-10-1, 4-3 EIWA) has two ranked wrestlers, No. 18 sophomore David Marble at 133 pounds and classmate No. 19 Andy Rendos at 165 pounds.
Koll added that the team is focusing primarily on preparing for the EIWA tournament on March 8.
“Our team is just at the level right now where we’re focusing our training on Easterns and Nationals,” he said.