Coming off of numerous post-season Ivy awards announced Tuesday afternoon, the Cornell wrestling team will head to New York City on Thursday to compete in the NCAA Wrestling Championships. The tournament will take place over the course of three days at Madison Square Garden and nine men will be wrestling for the Red.
After a bumpy start to a season plagued by injury and illness, head coach Robert Koll managed to bring his squad to a 6-5 overall finish in the regular season and qualified nine out of a possible 10 wrestlers for the tournament this weekend. Just yesterday, it was announced that Koll earned the title of Ivy League Coach of the Year along with Princeton’s head coach Chris Ayres. While Koll and his players have much to be proud of at the end of the regular season, they are all still working hard coming into the NCAA Championships.
“I expect they will all wrestle as hard as is humanly possible,” Koll said.
In terms of preparation for the weekend, the Red has had just a little under two weeks to recuperate from the team’s EIWA Championships victory to mentally and physically train for NCAA’s. Koll’s main focus leading up to the championship tournament was keeping players healthy and injury free.
“We have run short, intense practices,” Koll said. “Not a lot of live wrestling. At this point in time the only thing we can do is get hurt. They are ready.”
Heading into the weekend, Koll wants his players to go in focusing on their first matches and not looking too far ahead and getting distracted, he said.
“All too often guys started looking two or three matches into the bracket,” he said. “[They] need to get there first.”
While Penn State has the most points coming into the tournament, Koll explained that for each weight class, the toughest opponent can be from any given school competing. Thus, it is important that the Red not underestimate any other squads this weekend and that each player steps on the mat ready to fight.
Despite a rough start and early season, the Red squad is back in fighting shape, overcoming earlier problems with sickness and injury.
“Our biggest problem [this season] has been our health,” Koll said. “We fixed this by having everyone get sick earlier in the year.”
While Koll has undoubtedly played a huge role in getting the Red to this point, the squad boasts plenty of talent beyond the coaching staff including senior and Ivy Wrestler of the Year Nahshon Garrett and freshman and Ivy Rookie of the Year Joey Galasso. Juniors Gabe Dean, Brian Realbuto and Dylan Palacio, freshmen Jeramy Sweany and Dalton Macri, seniors Owen Scott and Duke Pickett make up the rest of the talented squad headed to New York this weekend.
In last year’s championship, the squad was able to take home fifth place and Dean took home a national title. Realbuto was good for second and Garrett came in fifth place for his respective weight class. With some fresh faces and an overall strong regular season, the Red heads into this year’s tournament positioned for success.