Following the wrestling team’s somewhat unsatisfactory 15-15 tie against Lehigh, the Red jumped head first into New York State’s annual Intercollegiate Championship, held Saturday and Sunday at Newman Arena. The Red finished the two-day tournament in first place, with five wrestlers winning individual titles. This is Cornell’s seventh team title in the event since the tournament was founded in 1970, and its first in eight years. Army’s squad finished a distant second, with 158 points to the home team’s 194.
The team’s recent success at the National Duals over Winter Break, however, gave the team the necessary confidence going into the first day of matches.
“We were feeling pretty confident coming off the National Duals,” said junior Mike Grey. “We just wanted to keep that going.”
Red individual winners included both starters and non-starters, as head coach Rob Koll took advantage of the weekend to rest some of his stars, including national champion Troy Nickerson.
Wrestling in Nickerson’s place was junior Frank Perelli, who took the individual title at 125 pounds for the Red, emphasizing the team’s depth.
Also picking up titles were Grey at 133 pounds, junior Colin McDonald at 174, sophomore Cam Simaz at 197 and senior Taylor Moore at heavyweight.
Leen explained the benefits of allowing some of the team’s so-called back-ups their own chance to shine, especially in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
“It’s nice to remind someone like McDonald that he’s the best wrestler in the state of New York. Mack [Lewnes, usually the starter at 174 pounds] is just the best wrestler in the country,” Leen said. “At any given moment Mack could break his leg, and McDonald could easily step in.”
Leen described the competition throughout the tournament as a “mixed bag,” with almost every single wrestling program in the state attending. This was the first time Cornell has hosted the event, however, and the first time the team has sent any of its starters to the non-league competition.
The fact that the match was home influenced Koll’s decision to have some starters compete.
“Some of the guys in the starting line-up need some more mat time,” Leen also said.
The three straight days of competition did not seem to bother Grey, however, who credited his team’s intense training regimen for his successes.
While some of his teammates may have been wrestling a slightly softer field, Grey found himself matched up in the finals against a top-20 adversary, Kevin Smith of Buffalo. Grey earned a 5-2 decision over the wrestler, building upon his quick pin against Travis Coffey of Army in the semis.
“Mike is such a workhorse,” Leen said. “He might well perform his best in a seven-day tournament. He’s just one of the sick ones who loves the whole process — the whole grind.”
At 149 pounds, junior Corey Manson finished in third place, with a victory in the consolation round over nearby Cortland’s representative Stephen Perez.
Following at 157, senior John Basting earned fourth place, while junior Justin Kerber placed second at 165.
McDonald then followed this up with his individual title at 174, nearly earning a pin in the final seconds of his semifinal match before defeating No. 2 seeded Ryan Merger of Army in the finals.
Red senior Nate Holley pinned Buffalo’s Josh Peters in his semifinal bout at 184 pounds and finished in second place.
Following a 20-5 technical fall in the semifinals of his 197 bout, Simaz earned his title with a major decision in the finals. Moore finished up the competition after defeating the No.1 seed, Corey Waite of Binghamton, to earn the title and secure the overall victory for Cornell.
“I think we were right where we needed to be,” Grey said. “Overall I think we are doing what we need to do to be successful.”
Also in attendance was Cornell wrestling’s ubiquitous but unofficial mascot, the aptly-monikered Red Man, who can often be seen at matches dressed in a full body suit of birth red latex. While Leen refused to name the mysterious Man, he did reveal that Sunday’s masked figure was a temporary replacement as the original was out sick.
Original Author: Meredith Bennett-Smith