Cornell picked up two dual victories on the road on Saturday, including a 29-12 win over Columbia in the evening that sealed the Big Red’s 11th consecutive Ivy League championship.
Midway through the opening match against Hofstra it looked like a weekend sweep might not be in the cards as Cornell faced a 15-3 deficit going into the intermission.
Freshman Nahshon Garrett had given the Big Red a 3-0 lead after defeating returning All-American Steve Bonanno 3-1 to begin the dual, however, Hofstra registered wins in the next four bouts. Jamie Franco edged Bricker Dixon at 133 in the tiebreakers, Luke Vaith dominated in the top position in a 5-0 victory over Mike Nevinger at 141, Cody Ruggirello got the crowd excited with a pin over Ryan Dunphy at 149 and Tyler Banks outlasted Jesse Shanaman in multiple overtimes at 157.
“I’m not going to lie – it was a little nerve-racking,” said Cornell assistant coach Damion Hahn. “We definitely didn’t expect to be down like that. The first five weights, there was a stubbornness in how we wrestled. It was like the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. There were the same mistakes again and again. We went back to the locker room and talked about making changes in the next five matches.”
There was an immediate difference after the break. With his team needing a boost, three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake took the mat and delivered with a first period pin against Nick Terdick.
“Any time you start with Kyle Dake, you’ll get the momentum going,” Hahn said. “He was dominant as usual and got us what we needed.”
With the deficit now a more manageable six points, the Big Red’s Marshall Peppelman took the mat against Jermaine John at 174 pounds.
The Pride sophomore held a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but Peppelman notched a pair of takedowns, including one with less than five seconds to go, to capture the pivotal bout by a 5-3 score.
“We saw 174 as a toss up match going in,” Hahn said. “Marshall fell behind but he wrestled hard and stayed focused for the entire match. People don’t get to see how powerful Marshall is because he usually doesn’t take too many risks. But the people in the arena [at Hofstra] saw how explosive he can be. I mean, he hit a double in the middle of the mat and drove [John] all the way to the edge where he finished. And then with time running out, he hit another strong attack. In the past, he stopped when his shot was defended. In that match, he showed confidence and finished for the win.”
Cornell trailed 15-12 but it was smooth sailing from there, beginning with a quick fall for defending NCAA champion Steve Bosak at 184 against Taras Luzhnyy.
“I told Steve we needed six right before he went out there and he got the job done,” Hahn said. “I couldn’t be happier with what our veterans, Kyle and Steve, have been doing for us.”
And sophomore Jace Bennett followed suit with a pin of his own.
“Jace has been focused on some key aspects of his wrestling, especially not getting sloppy on top,” Hahn said. “We know he has a lot of talent. He can take down anyone in the country. When he gets on top, he has to focus on not rushing the legs. He needs to get to a good ride, in a dominant position and not force the legs. That’s gotten him into trouble. He did a good job staying in control.”
In the final match, Jacob Aiken-Phillips was in a battle with Hofstra senior Paul Snyder when the Pride wrestler injury defaulted.
“The last time [Aiken-Phillips] wrestled Snyder he lost to him at the Binghamton Open last year,” Hahn said. “He’s really good on the mat and when he got on top, he was riding really hard. I felt like he was gaining momentum. Unfortunately, Snyder got hurt.”
So, despite some shaky moments early, the Big Red captured the dual by a seemingly comfortable 30-15 score.
“Those last five guys came out and performed when we needed them to,” Hahn said. “Maybe they were a little angry about the first five and rightfully so. But there are definitely positives we can take away from winning at the end.”
Those positives carried over to the second meet of the day in New York City as the Big Red brought the Ivy title back to Ithaca for the 11th time in a row.
To watch videos of all 10 matches of Cornell vs. Columbia see this link.
The Big Red never trailed as Garrett opened the event with an 11-1 major decision over Penn Gottfried. Leading the way for Cornell with pins were Dake and Bosak, with Bennett picking up a major at 197. Mike Nevinger (141), Chris Villalonga (149) and Aiken-Phillips all got their hands raised as well.
In the most dramatic bout of the night, Columbia senior Stephen West recorded a third period fall over Duke Pickett at 174. The Big Red freshman led for most of the match, but with little time left in the final stanza, West threw Pickett to his back and grabbed six points for the home team. Also winning for the Lions were Matt Bystol at 133 and Jake O’Hara at 157.
The victory capped off another undefeated conference season for Cornell and 11 straight years at the top of the Ancient Eight.
“We’re a little bit spoiled because we’ve had so many great kids over the past 11 years,” said Cornell head coach Rob Koll. “Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of not appreciating the accomplishments. We’ve had more losses this year, but we need to be thankful for the victories and not focus only on the defeats. We’re happy to be Ivy League champions again but we know that we have a lot of work to do to get our seventh EIWA title in a row, get to the finals weekend of the National Duals and perform the way we want to at NCAAs.”
Army Hosts All-Academy Championships, Navy Takes First
Army took fourth at the 19th Annual All-Academy Championships held in West Point on Saturday. The Black Knights were led by four second place finishers – Jordan Thome (133), Tyler Rauenzahn (141), Paul Hancock (165) and Bryce Barnes (197).
Taking bronze for Army were John Belanger (149) and Patrick Marchetti (157).
Navy finished atop the team standings on the strength of seven individual gold medalists.
For more on the All-Academy Championships, see here.
American Tops Binghamton; Kent State Edges Buffalo
Nationally-ranked 149 pounder Donnie Vinson notched another quick pin and Nate Schiedel picked up a technical fall at 197, but it wasn’t enough as American topped the Bearcats, 26-14 in Washington D.C.. Also getting his hand raised for Binghamton was Cody Reed, who won by decision at 184.
For more on the Binghamton dual, see here.
Meanwhile, Buffalo got off to a strong start against Kent State with five wins in the first six bouts. However, in the 174-pound match, John-Martin Cannon was forced to injury default and the Golden Flashes won the remainder of the contests, including a major decision and a pin to capture a 22-19 triumph.
For more on the Buffalo dual, see here.