The Cornell wrestling team battled through injuries over winter break, picking up victories against Ivy League opponents Harvard and Brown but dropping matches to Lehigh and Missouri. The Red had top ranked wrestlers Nahshon Garrett and Gabe Dean out of the lineup against Lehigh.
Head coach Rob Koll said he was pleased with the performances of a number of wrestlers.
“We had some guys who wrestled really well and had some guys who didn’t wrestle so well,” he said. “It’s hard to have a great team performance when we have a lot of our top performers out of the lineup.”
The Red’s wins over Brown and Harvard improved the team’s winning streak against Ivy League opponents to 70 matches.
Junior captain Brian Realbuto emphasized the program’s high expectations.
“Dominating the Ivy League competition is … kind of a staple in our program,” Realbuto said. “That’s just expected of us and we expect that out of ourselves every year.”
Realbuto won each of his matches in Cornell’s four meets over the break.
Winter break is always the most grueling stretch of the season for the Red. The team practices twice a day and essentially trains right through competitions.
“We don’t really let up at all, which makes it difficult,” Realbuto said. “It’s really important to stay disciplined and get a lot of sleep.”
“I think the kids on our team are probably the only Cornell students happy [that] school is back … tomorrow,” Koll added. “They’re going to be rested [and] have a day off back to class.”
The winter break grind, however, is essential for the team’s postseason success, according to Realbuto.
“It’s a good period for us to catch up to [bigger] schools and have that advantage and really get in a lot of work,” Realbuto said. “This time is usually when we make the biggest jump, so going forward from here we’re kind of excited to see [our] younger guys ready to perform.”
This is the time of the season that will determine the Red’s postseason success. The team’s season goals are the same every year.
“Our goals are number one; to win the Ivies. Number two; to win Eastern Championships. And number three; to get a trophy in the national tournament, which is [placing in the] top four,” Koll said.
Claiming the national title is certainly not out of reach. The Red (No. 15) has fought some of the best wrestling schools in the country — including No. 5 Missouri, No. 6 Lehigh, No. 11 Nebraska and No. 12 Rutgers — and has improved greatly through intense winter training. The team will face No. 4 Oklahoma State on February 7th.
Team success will largely depend on the development and improvement of the team’s younger members.
“Gabe, Nahshon [and I] have been … [helping] those younger guys [get] over their nerves a little bit,” Realbuto said. “And with that success comes team success, so if we can get them to perform at that level then we’ll ultimately be able to achieve our team goals.”
The Red’s next match is against Columbia on Feb. 6 at the Friedman Wrestling Center.