December 5, 2008

Grapplers Leave Injuries, Finals Behind for Las Vegas Invite

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While a portion of the wrestling team will stay in Ithaca this weekend to study for finals, the members of the wrestling team who determined that studying could wait a few days will be treated with a trip to Sin City. Partying will be kept to a minimum, however, as the wrestling team will be competing in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational beginning today.
Cornell is among 49 teams that will compete in the two-day event in Nevada. Some of the top teams in the nation will be there, including six squads from the Big Ten. Four other Ivy League teams will also participate in the early season test.
Cornell will feature a less experienced squad than usual since some wrestlers are injured and others are staying home to study. The contingent in Las Vegas is comprised of one senior, one junior, three sophomores and four freshmen.
No one will compete for the Red in the 141-pound weight class, in large part because sophomore Mike Grey is attempting to transition down from 141 to 133.
“He just feels he’ll be more effective [at 133],” said head coach Rob Koll.
Senior Jordan Leen is the only member of the Red who has experience competing in the Las Vegas Invitational. He earned fourth place in the 149-pound weight class in 2006. This year, he enters the competition as the No. 3 seed at 157 pounds.
“I hope to definitely win it,” Leen said. “I don’t mind being the underdog. If I take care of business, I’ll have the possibility to avenge a loss from earlier this year [against J.P. O’Connor of Harvard] and potentially have a rematch of last year’s NCAA finals [against Michael Poeta of Illinois, whom Leen defeated to win the title].”
Junior Taylor Moore will be the only other upperclassman wrestling for the Red. He will be in the unfamiliar position of battling heavyweights. Moore has wrestled at 197 for most of his Cornell career.
Sophomores Frank Perrelli (125), Mack Lewnes (165) and Justin Kerber (184) will each look to establish themselves in their respective weight classes this weekend. Perrelli is hoping to make a case to remain a starter now that the expected weight drops of Mike Grey and junior Troy Nickerson could squeeze him out of the lineup.
Lewnes is the top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 165 pounds and will look to build on his impressive start to the season.
At 184, Kerber hopes to take down some wrestlers who defeated him earlier this season.
“I feel like every tournament that I enter, my goal is to win it,” Kerber said. “In this one, it’s a pretty lofty goal considering I’ll have to face the returning national champion [Mike Pucillo, Ohio State], as well as a couple top-5 guys I’ve already lost to this year [Louis Caputo, Harvard, and Kirk Smith, Boise State], but I feel like it’s realistic to say that if I wrestle to the best of my ability, I’m right in it and I can compete to win it.”
Four rookies will round out the squad for Cornell. Quin Leith (133), Grant Daffin (149), Steve Bosak (174) and Cam Simaz (197) are in line to gain some much-needed experience.
“It’s a great experience for our freshman because they’re going to be the guys who are going to provide depth throughout the year,” Kerber said. “They’re going to know, after this tournament, where they stack up nationally and what they need to work on to be the best, not only this year but in the future.”