By Rob Koll
In the future we will not be wrestling Lehigh on the first weekend of January. When we returned to Ithaca from the Southern Scuffle the guys barely had enough time to have their singlets washed. We immediately hopped on a bus for Lehigh, made weight, wrestled and returned to Ithaca. Considering the travel situation, I was pleasantly surprised that the team still wrestled well against Lehigh. I had been warned by more than a few Cornell wrestling fans, but primarily Buzz Bishop, that I might as well stay in Lehigh if we lost. I think he was kidding but there is almost always truth to humor!
Here is a quick rundown of recent activities.
Southern Scuffle (SS)/Lehigh/Princeton observations:
125 Nahshon Garrett lost one close match at the SS to the eventual champion but scored major decisions and tech falls against every other opponent. At Lehigh he got off to a slow start but kept the pressure on, ultimately racking up a technical fall. In the Princeton match, Nahshon was determined to register his first career fall. He is great at scoring points but terrible at pinning his opponents (25-3 no falls). With the Pin Pool currently at $1,268 per pin he knew he had to work on this weakness. Unfortunately he still has work to do. He looked good winning 10-0, but that will not keep the lights on! Nahshon grows a little more dominant and gains a little more confidence every day. He has the physical, technical and mental skills to win the NCAA title this year.
133 Bricker Dixon did not perform will at the SS. He lost two matches because he could not get off the bottom. He has been working on this weakness ever since the Las Vegas Invite but we have yet to see significant results. This is even more frustrating because he is so strong everywhere else. Against Lehigh, Bricker defeated #13 Cruz 2-1. Bricker dominated the first two periods. He took Cruz down and rode him and then rode him out the entire second period. In the third period Bricker’s bottom struggles continued as he was ridden for the entire period. Bricker looked great against Princeton on his feet but most importantly he quickly escaped from the bottom! We expected Bricker to contend for the 125-pound weight class this year but since Nick Arujau has struggled with his weight we have relied on Bricker to carry the load. He is finally lifting into the weight class and could contend for the Eastern title if he continues to improve on his bottom work.
Nick Arujau has finally gotten his weight back down, but he will have to prove himself in open tournaments before I give him an opportunity to regain the starting role.
141 Mike Nevinger has completely regained his swagger. He won the SS championship by defeating a returning All-American, and the country’s #4 ranked wrestler. Mike is finally scoring from the neutral position again after suffering through a painfully long scoring drought. That is not to say that Mike was not winning, just that he was relying too much on his top work to win matches. Against Lehigh and Princeton, Mike dominated both matches, but since he failed to register any falls he is in our doghouse.
149 Chris Villalonga had to forfeit to 5th place after getting knocked out in the consolation wrestlebacks. The good news is Chris is doing well and has been cleared to wrestle.
149 Ryan Dunphy went 3-2 at the SS but failed to place. He lost an OT heartbreaker at Lehigh but then came back and avenged an early season loss by defeating the Princeton wrestler 5-3. Ryan is very tough and talented. He needs to make a better effort of riding his opponent. He will score three takedowns, quickly get away from his opponent when he has to go down, and still not even be close to securing riding time! That one point has cost him two to three matches this year.
157 Chris Dowdy is going to be very good but he needs to get a great deal stronger, and he needs to diversify his attacks. He has an explosive double leg that worked well in high school and currently works against weaker college opponents. Unfortunately once his momentum is stopped he doesn’t have the strength to finish his move. He is only 18 years old so I don’t expect that this problem will be a problem for long.
165 Kyle Dake defeated last year’s Hodge Award winner David Taylor to become only the second person to ever win four SS titles. Against Lehigh we bumped him up to wrestle #11 Nathaniel Brown. Kyle dominated the match, winning by six. Against Princeton Kyle finally helped us pay some bills by registering a quick first period fall.
174 Marshall Peppelman won four matches and placed 8th at the SS. He did not wrestle against Lehigh because Kyle moved up but he did win against Princeton. In the Princeton match Marshall put himself to his own back and had to come back from a five-point deficit. Marshall fought back and registered a 10-5 victory.
We need to figure out who will be our starter at this weight. Both Duke Pickett and Marshall have had respectable seasons thus far. We will wrestle these two off this week.
184 Steve Bosak defeated one returning All-American before falling in the finals to returning NCAA champion Ed Ruth at the SS. At Lehigh, Steve dropped a tough OT match to 2x All-American Rob Hamlin. Steve had 57 seconds of riding time but was unable to secure the last three seconds, sending the match into OT. To Steve’s defense he has only been back in the room for just over a month so I expect to see significant improvements in him up until the NCAA tournament.
197 Jace Bennett won five matches at the SS to place 7th. In the Lehigh match he wrestled with absolutely no urgency and was rewarded by being ridden out for a one-point loss. For the most part I felt the team wrestled well against Lehigh with the exception of Jace. His opponent stopped Jace’s double leg and Jace made no adjustments. If Jace didn’t have such exceptional talent this would not bother me so much. He needs to stop trying to “win easy” and mix it up more. As irritated as I was at him over his Lehigh performance he did help himself out by pinning his Princeton foe.
285 Neither Stryker Lane nor Jacob Aiken-Phillips placed at the SS. I sent Stryker out against Lehigh and he registered a workmanlike 3-1 decision. Jacob got the nod against Princeton and he came through with a second period fall.
All the best, Rob