At this point, winning seems to be second nature for Cornell wrestling. With dominant victories over Penn and Princeton this past weekend, the Red collected its 15th-straight Ivy League title to continue the longest title streak in the history of the Ancient Eight.
Halfway through the meet against Princeton (8-7, 4-1 Ivy), Cornell (12-2, 5-0) could taste victory with its 18-0 lead over the Tigers. The Red went into the match with the Ivy title on the line and with a certain degree of uncertainty. Not long after though, it seemed a 38th league title was imminent.
“Princeton has a very good team, and I was a little concerned with some of the match-ups,” said head coach Rob Koll. “Out of the blocks, our team physically dominated their wrestlers, setting the tone for the remainder of the match.”
Before Saturday, Cornell put itself in position to claim the title against Princeton by topping Penn (6-7, 2-3) Friday evening. The Quakers held a 10-7 lead over the Red early in the match, but starting with Brandon Womack at 165, Cornell won its final five matches, including a key major decision victory by No. 3 Brian Realbuto (174) over No. 13 Casey Kent.
After No. 1 Gabe Dean (184) won by forfeit, No. 19 Owen Scott (197) took the mat for a nail-biting penultimate match. A takedown with 40 seconds remaining in the third and final period secured his victory over No. 13 Frank Mattice along with three more points for his team.
“The two biggest wins of the weekend came from two different 197 pound wrestlers,” Koll said. “Owen Scott upset a nationally ranked Penn wrestler, and Ben Honis defeated Princeton’s all-American captain to give us all the points we needed to secure the dual meet victory.”
On Saturday against Princeton, Honis captured a huge upset victory over No. 10 Brett Harner. The 7-6 win by decision gave Cornell that 18-point lead heading into halftime, just about putting the match out of reach for the Tigers.
While freshman Noah Baughman (125) would see the only victory in the weekend’s final five matches, Cornell had created enough of a cushion for a 21-12 victory and its 15th-straight Ivy League title.
The Red’s pair of dual meet wins over the weekend makes it seven straight victories since its loss to then-No. 9 Missouri (10-4, 7-1) in early January.
“We have managed to string together a very nice season despite putting a different team on the mat in virtually every competition,” Koll said. “I feel good about where the team is, and I believe our best is yet to come.”
The work is far from over. Next up for Cornell is No. 4 Ohio State (11-2, 7-2) in the NWCA National Duals Competition Series. The Red will host the Buckeyes this weekend for the team’s final home meet of the season.
“I am excited to have … Ohio State coming to town,” Koll said. “They have a great team which includes three returning NCAA champions. The Buckeyes’ lineup includes eight ranked wrestlers, six of whom are inside of the top 10.”
Two marquee matchups will be No. 1 Bo Jordan vs. Realbuto at 174 and last year’s 174-pound NCAA champion Myles Martin against 184-pound reigning champion Dean.
The two squads last met in 2011 when Cornell defeated Ohio State, 27-6, at the National Duals. In addition, the Red is 18-7 in the National Duals Series since 2009, including a 2011 title.
The matchup between the Red and the Buckeyes was decided by taking the eight highest rated Big 10 schools — a league which Ohio State is fourth in — and matching them up against the eight wrestling conference champions. The highest ranked Big 10 teams were paired with the corresponding highest ranked non-conference teams. Since the Big 10 teams hosted in 2016, the non-Big 10 team will host this year.
Undefeated teams No. 1 Oklahoma State — whom Cornell narrowly lost to, 23-19 — and No. 2 Penn St. will be competing for the National Duals Championship.
Cornell squares off against Ohio State on Sunday Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. at Newman Arena.