For the second week in a row, Cornell wrestling has been forced to grapple with an unfamiliar result — losing. In its second dual of the season against Ohio State, the Red dropped a 23-9 decision to the Buckeyes.
Following a loss against North Carolina State last weekend, the Red clinched 11 first-place victories at the Cornell Open. But the Buckeyes — much like the Wolfpack — proved to be much fiercer competition at this dual.
The No. 8 Buckeyes (3-1) have always presented the No. 17 Red (0-2) with a challenge. Last year, Ohio State dealt Cornell one of its three losses last season, a 25-9 setback at Newman Arena. This year, the Buckeyes boast two of the nation’s top wrestlers in their respective weight classes — Luke Pletcher and Killin Moore.
“They are one of the top teams in the country,” head coach Robert Koll said. “Ohio State, I think is a little underrated to be honest. They are a perennial contender, and this year it is no different.”
Despite a strong performance from senior Noah Baughman against Luke Pletcher, the No. 1 wrestler in the 141-pound weight class, his ultimate loss sent the Red into a scoring deficit to start the day. Baughman clinched a takedown against his opponent, just the second takedown Pletcher has allowed all season.
Yet, this offensive achievement by Baughman was not enough to secure the match. With the score at 6-5 in the third period, Pletcher managed to find another takedown opportunity, sending the score to 8-5. An escape by Baughman added a point to the overall tally, but to no avail. Baughman’s fight ended with an 8-6 loss.
The Red dug a deeper deficit for itself in the second match of the day. To start the third period, the Buckeyes’ Sammy Sasso had achieved a 9-3 lead against junior Hunter Richard in the 149-pound competition. Although Richard fired a series of shots and a third-period takedown, his comeback performance proved too little too late — he could only close the scoring gap to 12-9.
The Red found its first victory of the day in the 157-pound bout, during which freshman
Colton Yapoujian collected his first career dual victory as he defeated Elijah Cleary. A third-period escape by Yapoujian tied the score at 1-1. A stalling call against his opponent gave the Red freshman a 2-1 advantage, and a late escape sent him to a 3-1 victory.
The momentum from the first win of the day could not be carried into the 165-pound competition, in which senior Milik Dawkins faltered in a 12-4 contest. Four first-period takedowns by the Buckeyes’ Ethan Smith sealed the fate of the match.
Senior Brendan Womack surrendered a devastating loss in a closely contested 6-5 match. After OSU’s Caleb Romero clinched a late lead with a go-behind, the Red’s 174-pounder found himself without enough time to close the scoring gap.
After being injured for the 2018-2019 season, No. 4 Ben Darmstadt clinched his first dual victory of the year. The sophomore earned the 5-0 win through riding time and near-fall points.
In the 197-pound bout, freshman Jonathan Loew suffered a loss against the Buckeyes’ top-ranked Kollin Moore. Although Loew opened up scoring, he could not sustain a lead and lost in a decisive 18-6 contest.
In a close contest in the 285-pound weight class, the Red’s Brendan Furman surrendered a 4-3 loss to his opponent, Gary Traub. Furman started the match strong with an early first-period takedown, but the lead soon wavered as Traub gained momentum. His momentum carried into the third period, where his takedown against Furman capped another win for the Buckeyes.
The 125-pound round resulted in another loss for the Red. Sophomore Don LaJoie trailed Ohio State’s Malik Heinselman for the entire match. A late reversal by the Buckeye made it 8-4 to further benefit the opposition’s overall winning tally.
Senior Chas Tucker demonstrated his experience in his 12-5 win against Dylan Koontz in the 133-pound weight class. No. 6 Tucker clinched five takedowns during the match to pick up the victory.
Despite three winning performances, several close decisions that did not go in the Red’s favor resulted in the team’s second straight loss. Although the losses are painful for the Red, the team is wrestling against some of the nation’s best competition, and it can use these experiences to progress and learn.
“Even though we lost, I thought the guys wrestled a lot better this week,” Koll said. “It’s tough starting out the season with a brutal schedule — N.C. State and then Ohio State. It was a better performance today, but certainly not where we want to be by the end of the year.”
This weekend’s dual presents the Red with a prelude to the stiff competition it will face next weekend in the Cliff Keen Invitational tournament in Las Vegas. The team will compete with some of the nation’s top wrestlers.
“We are going to see some of the top guys in the country,” Koll said. “This will be a whole other world of wrestling. We have some young guys learning on the fly, so hopefully we speed it up a little bit this weekend. They are going to have the opportunity to speed up their growth in Vegas against this top-notch competition.”
The season is still early, and the team is embracing the opportunities for growth that each competition presents. The team will take a pause on dual competition as it heads to the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas next weekend. The Red will later pick up dual competition against Lehigh in January.