By Betsy Veysman
On Senior Day in the Friedman Center, it was appropriate that Frank Perrelli, Cam Simaz and Maciej Jochym led the way as the Big Red wrestlers captured their 10th consecutive Ivy League title and kept their undefeated dual season alive.
The trio of seniors combined for a 6-0 record on the day with four of the victories by bonus points as Cornell defeated Columbia 30-9 and topped previously unbeaten Hofstra 22-12. (Junior Kyle Dake and sophomore Mike Nevinger each went 2-0 for the Big Red as well).
Five other members of the Class of 2012 were honored: team manager Lexy Cook, Quin Leith, Warner Phipps, Derek Schreiner and Phillip Smith.
“It was nice to finish up at the Friedman Center with a few good wins,” Simaz said. “It’s been a little bit of a shaky season dual wise but we’re still undefeated, so we must be doing something right.”
Earning the Ancient Eight crown again was also exciting for the squad.
“Winning the Ivy title meant more than in the past to me because 10 in a row is impressive,” Perrelli added.
Simaz, the top ranked 197-pounder in the nation, dominated as he has all season long, performing a takedown clinic on Columbia’s Nick Mills in a 20-5 technical fall before pinning the Pride’s Tim Murphy. The six points he notched in the win over Hofstra clinched the dual for the Big Red.
“We call Cam ‘Captain Clutch’,” Perrelli said. “We needed the pin against Hofstra and he went out and got it. That’s just Cam. He’s been dominating everyone he wrestles, no matter how good the opponent is. We always expect it. It’s always nice to have him in our back pocket.”
The three-time All-American, who is the all-time leader at Cornell in bonus point victories with 94, now has nine falls, six technical falls and three major decisions this year.
“I’m looking for a pin every time I get on the mat,” Simaz said, adding that he feels like he’s nearly back to 100% after his hamstring injury earlier in the year. “I’m looking to dominate and score as many points as possible. As I’ve matured here at Cornell, it’s gotten much easier to get the pins and techs.”
Perrelli, currently ranked fifth at 125 pounds, got on the board early and often against Robert Dyar of the Lions in a 13-0 win in the opening dual. The victory was the New Jersey native’s 100th of his career.
“I was able to get to my shots and work on top and get a few turns,” Perrelli said. “I was basically able to do what I’ve been working for all year – scoring a lot of points and dominating.”
His next bout, the third match he has wrestled this season against #14 Steve Bonanno, was a lot tighter, with Perrelli prevailing 3-2.
“We’ve wrestled a lot, so we know each other pretty well,” he said. “It was like a lot of our other matches. I scored offensively early and that was the match.”
“Frank is always close with Bonanno,” Simaz added. “It’s similar to me and [Penn’s Micah] Burak. We wrestle a lot and every time it’s close. Those are the ones you have to win and he came through. [Perrelli] has been a fantastic leader for us this year, very vocal and very motivating. We wouldn’t be the same without him.”
Jochym had an eye opening performance against Kevin Lester, last year’s First Team All-Ivy selection at heavyweight. The Willston Park, NY native notched three takedowns before registering the fall in the third period to end the team’s victory over Columbia with an exclamation point.
“I think what made the difference for me against Lester was that I learned from the two times he beat me at the Body Bar,” Jochym said. “This time, I didn’t overthink it. It was almost automatic. We shook hands and the rest I hardly remember. I just did what I do in practice and it worked out pretty well.”
“That was probably the best I’ve seen Maciej wrestle,” Perrelli added. “I feel like he’s coming into this own and turning the corner. Hopefully, he can keep it going next week and into March.”
Jochym followed up his fifth pin of the campaign with a 3-1 victory over Paul Snyder to close out the Hofstra dual.
“With my record right now, [15-12] I need as many wins against national qualifiers as I can get,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said those two wins were just regular wins because I know I need to beat guys like that to make a case for myself at the end of the year. It’s also important as far as confidence goes.”
“I told him afterwards that I was really proud of him,” Simaz said of Jochym. “He’s small for the weight but he outworks his opponents. He’s really fun to watch. I was talking to some people after the matches and they were saying that they usually hate to watch heavyweights but they liked watching him. He takes his opportunities, is always moving and takes shots. He needed those wins to get him over the hump and I’m excited to see how he finishes the year.”
Jochym, who will pursue a career in his major of Science and Technology Studies, acknowledged that Senior Day was meaningful.
“To be honest, I didn’t really think about wrestling for the last time at the Friedman Center until it was over,” Jochym said. “Up until then, it was just another two duals. But when I got off the mat, it hit me. There is such a unique feel in that facility. It’s a great place to wrestle. I’ll miss it.”
However, the Big Red still has matches in Ithaca as Cornell welcomes Illinois, Oklahoma, Central Michigan, Purdue and American to Newman Arena on February 12.
“It was a little sad for the seniors [Saturday], but we still have some home duals left,” Perrelli said. “We’re looking forward to wrestling here again next week at the National Duals.”
In addition, for Simaz and Perrelli, Ithaca will remain home for at least one more year. Both will stay on as coaches at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club after graduation, with Perrelli hoping to qualify for the Olympic Trials after the college season finishes.
“Of course we’re seniors and everyone expects us to be a little sentimental,” Simaz said. “But that’s not the case, at least for me, and I think for Frank. We’re not in any hurry to leave because Cornell has done so much for us. We’d like to stay here as long as we can.”