February 4, 2011

Wrestling Takes On Hofstra, Columbia With No. 1 Ranking in Hand

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With a healthy senior Mike Grey hitting his stride Cornell is back on top of the collegiate wrestling world and in prime position to maintain its No. 1 ranking. Consecutive wins against then-No. 15 Iowa State and unranked Binghamton, vaulted the Red back into the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Head coach Rob Koll’s squad had dropped to No. 2 in the poll following Cornell’s upset loss to No. 17 Lehigh last month. “It’s nice being able to say you are No. 1 for recruiting purposes, but your ranking doesn’t score you any points in a match,” Koll said.

What has been scoring points for the Red is Grey’s return to the lineup, which came last weekend after the senior suffered an injury early in the season. Grey is solidifying a weight class that has been inconsistent for Cornell thus far, and both coaches and teammates alike have been ecstatic over his return.

“Grey is one of the best wrestlers we’ve had in the past four years,” Koll said confidently. Fellow senior D.J. Meagher, who also was injured earlier in the season, described Grey as the team’s “spring.”

“He brings a whole new level of intensity out on the mat. He’s a leader, he’s a senior and he brings so much to the team,” Meagher said.

Grey and the squad look to bring up their energy this weekend with two matches slated for Saturday. The team will travel to Homstead, N.Y. for the early meet against Hofstra and then venture to New York City for an Ivy League matchup against Columbia. For those who know the team well, it’s no surprise that the prospect of playing in two dual-meets within a five-hour span doesn’t bother the Red in the least.

“Back-to-back meets isn’t too bad compared to the intensity of our practices,” Meagher said.

The Hofstra Pride is currently riding a five-meet win streak and the Columbia Lions enter the match with the Red after winning their last three dual-meets.

“Hofstra on paper is the better of the two teams,” Koll said.

Cornell will be guaranteed a fully healthy lineup for the early meet against Hofstra, a team that has two players in particular that will require the Red’s full attention. Seniors Lou Ruggirello and Ryan Patrovich are the centerpiece for the Pride, with the matchup between Ruggirello and Cornell senior Mack Lewnes at 174 pounds serving as one of the most anticipated matches of the weekend for the Red.

The second opponent of the day will be the first of five consecutive Ivy League opponents that the Red will face to close out the regular schedule season. Entering Saturday’s competition Cornell is the only Ivy League team to be ranked in the Top-25, meaning that the Red will enter all of its Ivy matchups as the favorite.

After the conclusion of Ivy play the Red will then turn its focus to the main prize of the season. Now that Cornell is fully healthy and has the No. 1 ranking, the team will likely be the favorite to win the national championship. Yet Koll and his wrestlers are looking no further ahead than this weekend.

“We don’t want to jump ahead to nationals,” Koll cautioned.

Meagher echoed the sentiments of his head coach.

“The No. 1 ranking is nice, but it all just matters how you finish,” he said. “I’ve been here for four years and we have had some really good teams, but this year’s team is the best. This senior class is really special.”

Original Author: Brian Gordon