Despite competing without some of their top talent this 2019-2020 season, Cornell wrestling defied the odds and amassed 120 team points to earn a second place finish in the 2020 EIWA championship.
However, the season has yet to end as six wrestlers who earned automatic bids into the 2020 NCAA championships.
Sophomore Dom LaJoie, senior Chas Tucker, senior Noah Baughman, junior Hunter Richard, sophomore Ben Darmstadt and sophomore Brendan Furman will travel to Minneapolis, Minn. to compete on the national stage to compete from March 19 to 21. The other Cornell wrestlers seek an at-large bid into the national tournament.
As the second place finisher, the Red was sandwiched between Lehigh who finished first with 154 team points, and Army whose 112 team points garnered them the third place spot. For a third straight season, Lehigh has dominated the championship.
The Princeton Tigers, the closest Ivy League finisher, managed a fifth place finish with 100.5 points. The Red’s more favorable EIWA result serves as retribution for the Tiger’s dual victory during the regular season.
“They were quite a ways in our rearview mirror, to be honest, so it was gratifying to finish in front of them,” said head coach Robert Koll. “When you have a team who builds their whole season around beating us, it results in a weaker finish in the end. Our goal isn’t just to beat Princeton, but to have the best team at the end of the year where it counts.”
Tucker’s position as the No. 1 seed in the 133 lbs bout of the tournament shortened his road to the EIWA title. After a first round bye, the senior took down Columbia’s Angelo Rini in a 7-3 match. Progressing to the semifinals, Tucker met Navy’s Casey Cobb on the mat, and vanquished him 8-2.
With the title on the line, Tucker faced Nick Farro from Lehigh, who he toppled during the finals in the dual season. In a sudden victory, the Red wrestler came out on top for the second time this year. A 31-0 season record will bolster the two-time EIWA title winner as he wrestles in the NCAA tournament.
Darmstadt took home his second EIWA career title this weekend. The sophomore breezed through his first two rounds, and in the semifinals, he picked up a 6-1 win against his Army opponent. He clinched a major decision against Bucknell’s Drew Phipps in the finals. After a first period takedown, Darmstadt added two near fall points in the second round, widening the lead with another takedown and having four minutes of riding time to win the 11-0 match and the title.
Maintaining his regular season groove, Richard took second place at the EIWA championships and wrestled his way to the NCAA championships. After two major decisions, Richard met Lehigh’s Jimmy Hoffman in the semifinals.
In the third period, Richard changed the trajectory of the match and earned a takedown and four near-fall points — the 7-5 victory sent him to the finals against Princeton’s Matt Kolodzik. During the match, Richard struggled to compensate for Kolodzik’s takedown, and relinquished a 4-3 defeat for a second place title.
Baughman clinched an invitation to the national tournament with a third place EIWA finish. Baughman sent Franklin & Marshall’s Wil Gil to the consolation round after eking out a narrow 12-1 opening victory.
Even though he suffered a major decision defeat in the quarterfinals, the senior sailed through the consolation rounds. In the battle for third place, the Ohio native avenged an early-season loss to Penn’s Doug Zapf with a 3-1 victory and third place title.
After a major decision 8-0 first round win, freshman Jonathan Loew took a major loss against his quarterfinal opponent. After two victories in the consolation rounds, the freshman suffered a 14-4 blow against Army’s Noah Stewart.
Fifth place was still up for grabs, however, and Loew entered the mat against Ivy League foe Tavis Stefanik of Princeton. Despite losing to the Tiger earlier this season, Loew secured a takedown and a pair of escapes to avenge a 4-3 victory.
Furman’s road to the EIWA title went amiss in the semifinal round of the championships, where Lehigh’s Jordan Wood took home the 5-0 victory. After wrestling his way through the consolation semifinals, the sophomore was determined to bring home the third place victory. Furman outwrestled Hofstra’s Zach Knighton-Ward for a 7-2 victory, which he won with almost 5 minutes of riding time. The third place finish secured him a bid to the NCAA championship.
Despite two consecutive wins to open up competition, LaJoie suffered three consecutive defeats to give him the sixth place title. Columbia’s Joe Manchio knocked the sophomore out of the main bracket with a 9-7 narrow victory. Gage Curry of American was next to take down the Red wrestlers. In the fight for the fifth place finish, Army’s Trey Chalifoux came out on top.
Junior Adam Santoro mustered a sixth place finish after wrestling an exhausting six matches. After Drexel’s Parker Kropman sent him to the consolation bracket, Santoro defeated his Hofstra and Navy competition with scores of 9-7 and 6-1 respectively. After Army’s Markus Hartman toppled him 8-0 in the consolation semi-finals, the junior struggled to regain his momentum, and lost the fifth place bout to Hunter Ladnier of Harvard.
For senior Milik Dawkins, it was a day of back and forth. After a first round win, the senior lost to Navy’s Tanner Skidgel. In the consolation round, Dawkins beat his Franklin & Marshall competition, but failed to channel this winning momentum into his next match against Richard Stamm of Hofstra.
However, the senior capped off his collegiate wrestling career with a hard-fought 3-2 seventh place victory against American’s Tim Fitzpatrick, which featured a match-winning takedown.
“I don’t think that we could have wrestled much better,” Koll said. “It was a great showing from top to bottom. Every single wrestler wrestled above their seed, and I’ve never had a tournament like that.”
It has been a season of unknowns for the Red, wrestling without Yanni Diakomihalis, Max Dean and Vitali Arujau who took Olympic redshirts. But, the team has exceeded all expectations and reaped the rewards of their hard work that materialized as both team and individual successes this weekend.
“This is by a long shot not the best team we have ever had, but it is without a doubt the team that has done more with less than any other team I have had in my 31 years of coaching at Cornell,” Koll said. “On paper, it wasn’t the team that should be placing top five at Easterns. It wasn’t the team that should have more than a couple of guys going to nationals. But we came in second and we have a minimum of six guys going to nationals.”
On March 17, the qualified wrestlers will head to Minneapolis, Minn. for the 2020 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The first session takes place on March 19 at 11 a.m.