This post has been updated.
The longest streak in the history of the EIWA has come to an end.
Cornell wrestling failed to extend its run of consecutive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships to 12 on Sunday as it placed second behind Lehigh. The Red was unable to surpass the Mountain Hawks despite sending eight grapplers to the semifinals on Saturday.
With three first place finishes by freshmen No. 3 Yianni Diakomihalis (141), No. 2 Ben Darmstadt (197) and junior No. 18 Jon Jay Chavez (165), Cornell totaled 146 points in the tournament. But Lehigh bested the previously perennial champions, scoring 164.5.
Nonetheless, head coach Rob Koll was pleased with his squad’s performance.
“Overall, we had a couple slip ups; I don’t think we could have wrestled much better as a team,” he said. “When you consider we only had three guys on the team who had wrestled in that tournament last year and to have eight finish in the top three, I thought they did a remarkable job.”
Six wrestlers represented Cornell in the finals. However, the Red failed to defeat its rival in the final matches, with all three of the Red’s losses in the finals coming from the hands of the Mountain Hawks. That dominance throughout the tournament allowed Lehigh to recapture the title after 10-plus year drought.
“Lehigh has a great team and they wrestled a great tournament,” Koll said.
The three runner-ups included freshman No. 12 Max Dean (184), sophomore Noah Baughman (125) and junior No. 20 Chaz Tucker (133). Baughman’s and Tucker’s matches were each decided by one point against Lehigh wrestlers, including defending NCAA Champion No. 2 Darian Cruz at 125.
Juniors Brandon Womack (174) and Jeremy Sweany (285) dropped their semifinal matches to top-seeded opponents, but clawed back, out-wrestling their seeds to third place finishes.
The only two Cornell wrestlers that failed to reach the semifinals were junior Will Koll (149) and sophomore Fredy Stroker (157). The pair failed to place, with Koll losing by injury default in the consolation quarterfinal with a severe elbow injury.
The Red is not hanging its head on the shortcoming. While its impressive streak is no longer, the team is moving on and looking ahead to the real task at hand.
“It’s a bonus that we won [the EIWA Championship] 11 years in a row but the reality is that it’s a national qualifier,” Koll said. “Our guys are not thinking, ‘Oh, we didn’t win it,’ they’re not moping about that. They are focusing on the National Championships.”
To Koll, the EIWA Championship is not the be-all and end-all of the Cornell wrestling season.
“We won that thing 11 years in a row,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t want to win it every year, but it’s a qualifier; it’s a means to an end.”
Of its 10 wrestlers who competed in the tournament, seven earned automatic bids to the NCAA Wrestling Championship. Baughman will look to get an at-large bid with his second place finish.
“Obviously we would like to get all 10, and on a given day we could have had all 10,” Koll said. “But seldom does everything work out perfectly.”
In a couple weeks, Cornell will travel to Cleveland for the NCAA Championship, which will run from March 15 to 17 at Quicken Loans Arena.