Cornell wrestling put a pause on its collegiate dual matches and brought its talent to the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, Nevada. Competing with 15 of its fellow top-25 teams, the No. 17 Red clinched the 11th place overall finish.
As a testament to the tournament’s staunch competition, over 100 nationally-ranked wrestlers from some of the nation’s top wrestling programs were in attendance in a field of 31 teams. Among the teams were No. 3 Nebraska, No. 4 NC State, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Iowa State, No. 7 Arizona State and No. 8 Northern Iowa.
“When you wrestle against teams and guys of this caliber, you are going to lose a lot,” head coach Rob Koll said. “If you’re not wrestling against this type of competition it’s hard to deal with it when you face it. Hopefully our guys are learning from it, and not getting discouraged from it.”
Even though the Red has embarked on this 2019 season without four of its top wrestlers, Cornell’s 2019 results in the tournament eclipsed its performance last year. In 2018, Cornell secured only 40 points, placing 21st in the invitational.
Pivotal to the Red’s 11th place this year was Chas Tucker’s triumphant performance as the senior took home first place in the 133 weight class. Sophomore Ben Darmstadt found himself on the 184 weight class podium with a seventh-place finish and senior Brandon Womack clinched the eighth-place position at 174 pounds.
Tucker is the 20th Cornell wrestler in the program’s history to carry the title of Cliff Keen Champion. After persevering through a grueling four rounds to reach the finals, he hit the mat against Wyoming’s No. 7 ranked Montorie Bridges, an opponent he had failed to defeat in their two previous meetings, in the fifth and final round.
Although Bridges opened up the final round’s scoring with an escape, Tucker quickly responded with an escape of his own to even the score. With the scoring deficit eliminated, the Red wrestler took control of the match, successfully firing off his first shot of the day. In a third-period offensive attack, Tucker pinned his opponent to the mat to seal his 4-1 national victory.
“He has become extremely poised and confident,” Koll said. “He is really controlling matches. It was a dominating victory. With the way he wrestles, Chas doesn’t score a lot of points, so a 4-1 victory is like a 10-0 shutout score for him.”
As he sailed through the tournament, Tucker conceded only one takedown. His win pushes his individual season record to an immaculate 12-0.
“There were some mixed results,” Koll said. “Obviously we had Chas who did a fantastic job and two other place winners, but we expected to have those place winners. It is still early in the year — I felt good for Chas, but we have a lot of work to do.”
After taking a pause for the holidays, the Red will return to competition at the South Beach Duals. The action will occur on December 29-30 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.