March 10, 2008

Grapplers Start Strong, Finish With One Title

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Although Nationals are right around the corner, Cornell wrestling had to step back and focus all of its attention on what was happening this weekend, the EIWA Championships at Franklin & Marshall, in Lancaster, Pa. After a stellar first day of competition, the Red struggled on Sunday, and only sent three wrestlers to the finals. Of the three, only freshman Mack Lewnes won an EIWA title, at 165 pounds. Lewnes’ points gave Cornell just enough points to edge Penn for their second straight EIWA team championship, winning by a mere half point, 128-127.5. Army came in third, out of a 14-team pool.
“We didn’t wrestle up to par. We won by a half point, but you know what? A win’s a win,” Lewnes said.
Juniors Jordan Leen and Steve Anceravage were individual runners-up, after both lost their finals matches by decision at 157 and 174 pounds, respectively. Cornell also qualified six wrestlers for the NCAAs. Besides the trio in finals, freshman Mike Grey qualified at 133 pounds, sophomore Adam Frey qualified at 141 pounds and senior Mike Rodriguez will be representing the Red at 125 pounds. Ten Cornell wrestlers were ranked in the top-6 for their weight class.
It was a weekend of mixed emotions for the Red (9-6, 6-0 EIWA), because, despite the win many on the team were left with the distinct feeling that they could have preformed better.
“It’s the most bitter, slightly sweet victory any of us have been a part of,” Leen said. “We’re all looking around the bus and we all just want to punch ourselves in the face. No one [with the exception of Lewnes] really wrestled up to their full potential. We really underperformed. We’re pretty darn lucky [to have won the team title].”
On Saturday, No. 4 seed Rodriguez started the day off with an explosive pin of his opponent with three seconds left in the first period.[img_assist|nid=28683|title=No blood, no foul|desc=Junior Steve Anceravage was a runner-up at 174 pounds this past weekend in the EIWA championships. He was one of six Cornell wrestlers who qualified for the NCAAs.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
At 133 pounds, No. 1 Mike Grey had a first-round bye. In the second round he won easily, scoring an 11-3 major decision.
Wrestling for the first time in two months, Frey, at 141 pounds, lost his first match by decision, 11-7. In the consolation bracket, Frey recorded a 22-14 major decision, however.
Freshman D.J Meagher, ranked No. 5 at 149 pounds, received a first-round bye, then defeated Navy’s No. 4-ranked wrestler. With riding time, Meagher won a 6-2 decision.
At 157 pounds, the Red was represented by No.1 seed Leen, who scored an 8-0 major decision followed by a 9-2 second round win.
Lewnes, also No. 1, at 174 pounds, picked up another pin, his 16th on the season, this one at 2:33 in the first period. In the second round, Anceravage continued to dominate, defeating his opponent 16-3 and earning another major decision for Cornell.
Sophomore Josh Arnone, wrestling at 184 pounds, also pinned his opponent in the first period of competition. In the quarterfinals, Arnone won his match by fall in 2:23.
Another of Cornell’s freshmen, Justin Kerber, continued the pattern of success for the Red, winning his first match by decision, 4-2. In his second competition of the day, Kerber, competing at 197 pounds, earned a 20-4 win by technical fall.
In the heavyweight category, freshman Maciej Jochym, the No. 5 seed, won his first-round match, before falling to the No. 4 seed from Army, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.
“We started off on the first day really well,” Anceravage said after the second day of competition had ended. “Today we did not do as well, as a team. As you go on, the matches get tougher.”
“The first day’s always a little bit easier,” agreed Lewnes. “We’re high seeds, and so we’re up against lower-seeded guys. [On Saturday] we really showed our dominance.”
Opening the second day at 125 pounds, Rodriguez was pinned late in the second period. In the consolation round, Rodriguez picked up a pin of his own, taking third place in his weight class, earning Cornell bonus team points and qualifying for his first NCAA tournament.
Grey was next at 133 pounds. In a tight match, Navy wrestler Joseph Baker came away with a 5-4 win with a little over a minute in riding time. After a 10-3 win in the consolation round, Grey earned third place and a NCAA berth with a 10-4 decision.
Frey won his consolation match with a pin in the second period. Frey then won his third-place battle qualifying for the NCAAs as well.
Meagher wrestled against the No. 2 seed from Harvard. Although he fought hard, the Harvard wrestler walked away with an 11-2 major decision, and 1:50 in riding time. Meagher lost his next two matches, placing sixth.
Leen won his semi-final match with a pin in the second period. In the finals, however, his opponent, David Nakasone of Lehigh, was able to come away with the close victory, in a 5-2 decision.
Lewnes faced off against Penn’s Zack Shanaman for the individual title in the finals. The two were tied with four points at the end of the third period, but Lewnes grabbed the win with a timely takedown.
Anceravage fought a tough opponent in Penn’s Scott Griffin, who was able to stay close to the Cornell wrestler throughout the match. But ultimately, Anceravage advanced to the finals with a 4-1 victory and over two minutes in riding time. In his next match in sudden victory, Anceravage was edged out of first place after a takedown sealed the win for the Navy grappler.
Arnone injured his shoulder during his quarterfinal match, and was unable to continue. He forfeited the rest of his matches and placed sixth.
In another match that could not be decided during regulation, Kerber lost his first match yesterday after a takedown in sudden victory. In the consolation round, Kerber was again edged out, this time 4-2. He placed fifth with a tight 9-8 decision.
In the heavyweight category, Jochym won his first match of the day by major decision, 12-2, with 1:54 minutes of riding time. Jochym last his next two matches by decision, 4-3 and 4-2, respectively, to place sixth.
Despite the highs and lows of the tournament, however, Cornell is already shifting its focus towards the NCAAs in two weeks. The Red hopes to learn from any mistakes made this weekend in order to succeed at the national meet.
“Every bad thing can be turned into some kind of positive,” Leen said. “For each one of us… we’re going to learn from our mistakes and come together to get the kind of performance this has all been building up to.”