Through three matches on Saturday afternoon, the Cornell wrestling team actually trailed. The Red was behind, 9-3, to a 3-8 Columbia team on the road that it had not lost to since 1985. Yet an hour later, the Red had rattled off seven straight wins to secure its 76th consecutive Ivy League dual meet win.
Head coach Rob Koll — now in his 23rd year at the helm — said he was never overly concerned during the meet.
“I wasn’t particularly concerned when we fell behind early because I knew the strength of our line-up is in the middle and upper weights,” Koll said.
Cornell improved to 10-2 on the season and will hope to gain ground in the NCAA rankings when the polls come out later today.
Cornell was the heavy favorite going into the match, so the team’s slow start was surprising to many. After freshman Noah Baughman (125) won a decision, classmate Jacob Lehr (133) — who is not a regular starter — was pinned by Columbia’s Alec Kelly to give the Lions the lead. After sophomore Will Koll lost at 141, things seemed a bit dicey.
Cornell’s middle and heavyweights quickly reversed the tide. Sophomore Jonathan Furnas (149) won his match, and after senior Taylor Simaz’s win by fall at 157, the Red regained the lead and never looked back.
Sophomore Brandon Womack won a 3-1 decision at 165 after the short intermission, giving way to the Red’s two top wrestlers, seniors Brian Realbuto and Gabe Dean; they certainly did not disappoint. Realbuto – the number three wrestler at 174 – pinned his opponent and improved to 16-1 on the season.
Dean then took center stage, but did not stick around for long. The three-time All-American and two-time national champion at 184 won by fall in just 38 seconds of the first period. Dean is now 24-0 – 18 of his wins coming via the pin – and has not lost a match in a full calendar year.
With the six point victory from the fall, Dean also broke a Cornell record. He now has the most bonus point victories — either by major decision, fall or technical fall — in school history with 94, surpassing former Cornell great and one of Dean’s personal mentors Cam Simaz ’12.
“It’s great to see someone like Gabe achieve such success because he does everything right,” Koll said. “When someone asks why Gabe is so good, I can point to the fact that he is one of the hardest workers that has ever stepped into the Cornell wrestling room. He lives a healthy lifestyle, is an excellent student and just an overall great citizen.”
After Dean, Cornell’s two heavyweights — at 197 and 285 — also won their matches to give the Red the 34-9 victory in its only dual of the weekend.
“Overall it was a very good outing,” Koll said. “It was a nice way to prepare for next week’s Ivy League showdown.”
That showdown comes next weekend when Cornell will have an opportunity to clinch its fifteenth consecutive Ivy League championship as Penn and Princeton come to town.
While Cornell will again be expected handle both opponents without much trouble, anything can happen, and the team is not overlooking either opponent. They also hope they can continue to fend off injuries in the days and weeks to come.
“The sport is tough, and the season is long. At this point the key to success for next weekend and for the remainder of the season is to get, and keep, everyone healthy,” Koll said.
Cornell squares off against Penn Friday night at 6:30 and against Princeton at 3:00 the following afternoon. Both matches will be held at the Friedman Wrestling Center.