By SHAN DHALIWAL
Madison Square Garden is an intimidating venue for an athlete, no matter his or her skill level. The Cornell wrestling team traveled down to the Garden this past weekend to compete in the annual Grapple at the Garden, where it dropped two matches to No. 5 Nebraska and No. 14 Rutgers, a day after the Cornell men’s ice hockey team went up against Boston University at the same venue.
“For the most part, we wrestled tough and a lot of the younger guys got some experience, especially wrestling in front of such a huge crowd and a big arena,” junior and former All-American Brian Realbuto said. “It was a good experience for a lot of our younger guys and they went out there and didn’t hold back which was good.”
Realbuto finished with two victories, defeating No. 15 Micah Barnes of Nebraska and Phil Bakuckas of Rutgers. Senior Nahshon Garrett and junior Gabe Dean also both finished the day 2-0.
There were not many other positives that came out of the matches. Both Rutgers and Nebraska defeated the Red handily, 21-13 and 21-14 respectively.
“We have a lot of work to do technically,” Realbuto said. “I think something that comes with experience is just learning all of the little tricks and strategies to give yourself an advantage during a match, and I think our young guys still have a lot to learn in that regard.”
“As a team, everyone has little things that they need to work on,” he said. “Just very little specific things that everyone needs to concentrate their time and focus on, whether it’s specific drills or specific situations that they can be more accustomed to, so when they’re in that situation they’re able to handle it better.”
An important part of developing as a team is helping the freshmen on the team acclimate to collegiate wrestling. Realbuto said a lot of the older wrestlers know that helping with this transition is essential.
“We have a pretty close-knit team, and a lot of older guys make themselves available to younger guys for technique or strategy or mental preparation for matches,” he said. “I think that’s something that’s starting to show with guys like Jeremy [Sweany].”
Freshman Jeremy Sweany had an outstanding performance against Nebraska, defeating No. 13 Collin Jensen. He was the only freshman to come away with a victory.
“We just expect a lot out of them,” Garrett added. “We expect that they’re going to be great.”
The Red will get a chance to turn things around this weekend at the Las Vegas Invitational, the team’s final tournament of the semester. The tournament will take place on Friday and Saturday.
Both Garrett and Realbuto said there is not much more the Red can do physically to prepare for the tournament.
“One of the best things we should do is to make sure that everyone is focused not on the past, but on the future and what we can do to get better,” Garrett said. “This week is going to be week of very small adjustments that will lead to greater success.”
Realbuto also emphasized the importance of each wrestler sharpening his mental game.
“I don’t think that there’s much more we’re going to be able to do physically in the next couple of days besides getting in a good workout and managing our weight correctly,” he said. “Making some mental adjustments and some tactical adjustments is really going to make a big difference.”
The Red still have until Jan. 15 to prepare for Ivy League competition, during which time the Red’s postseason chances will be determined.
“There’s still a lot of room for growth, and we have a long season,” Realbuto said. “Showing guys what’s possible through hard work is important [for] helping them achieve their goals.”