BY ROB KOLL
[For a PDF version of Rob Koll’s newsletter, see Cornell newsletter Fall].
We pride ourselves on consistency within the program. If we recruit hard, and work harder, then there is no reason to ever suffer through a “rebuilding” year. This year that philosophy will be put to the test. It’s been seven years since we started a season without the services of one or more national champions. In addition, in the last two years we have lost four national champions to graduation. Despite these facts there is reason for optimism in the Cornell camp!
The 2013-2014 team ushers in a new era. No more Dake, Bosak and Simaz to the rescue. We need to find, and develop, the next Cornell wrestling legends. The good news is that within our wrestling room nebula I am confident we have the material and conditions to incubate future wrestling stars!
Although I cry youth, the truth is we are in the enviable position of possessing two not-so-secret weapons in Nahshon Garrett (125 pounds, third at last year’s NCAAs) and Mike Nevinger (141 pounds, seventh and fifth at the last two NCAAs). In addition to these two we have past NCAA qualifiers in Chris Villalonga (149), Marshall Peppelman (165), Jace Bennett (197) and Stryker Lane (285). These returning starters give us a good base, but we have a few openings that will need to be filled.
125: Nahshon Garrett returns for his sophomore year with the intent, and ability, to claim the first of multiple NCAA championship titles. Nahshon is vastly improved, and he wasn’t too shabby last year! Bricker Dixon will move down to challenge Nahshon. These two provide us with amazing depth. Ryan Radwanski, a freshman from Bridgewater, NJ will also challenge for a spot.
133: Freshman Mark Grey, the self-proclaimed better looking and more intelligent Grey brother, will make an immediate impact at this weight. Sophomore Logan David and senior Josh Kennedy will also complete for the role. Last year, David had six wins wrestling at 125 and 133, while Kennedy went 4-6. Former NCAA qualifier Nick Arujau will either compete at 133 or 141.
141: Mike Nevinger comes back for his senior year with the goal of making it to the top of the podium. Mike always works hard, but this summer, he was particularly focused and intense. Mike has enjoyed a spectacular Cornell career, ranking 20th on the all-time wins list with 99 victories. Challenging Mike for the spot will be sophomore Joe Rendina (9-5 last year), Nik Peña, (11-11 two years ago), as well as a host of outstanding freshmen including Corey Dake (Lansing, NY), Eli Bienstock, (Gaithersburg, MD) and three-time California state champion, Alex Cisneros.
149: Junior Chris Villalonga has amassed 58 victories and two trips to the NCAA tournament during his career. Despite this impressive resume, we expect significantly more out of him this year. Chris has grown into a full sized 149-pound wrestler and will no longer be overpowered by anyone. If Chris gets banged up, we can fall back on the services of seniors Ryan Dunphy and Conner David.
157: Two outstanding freshmen, Brian Realbuto and Taylor Simaz, will take over this weight class. Realbuto is a three-time New York state champion and Fargo National Champion who placed third at the FILA Junior World Team Trials over the summer. Simaz, whose brother Cam won a national title for the Big Red in 2012, was a two-time Michigan state champion.
165: Marshall Peppelman, Craig Eifert and Dylan Palacio make this our most hotly contested weight. Any one of the three could make the team and I expect the person who ultimately prevails will compete for All-American honors in March. Also battling for the spot is freshman Jake George. Jake is Billy’s younger, and naturally better looking and smarter, brother.
174: This is another weight class with a great deal of talent. Sophomores Duke Pickett and Owen Scott will battle it out with junior Jesse Shanaman. Pickett started for half of last year and racked up an 18-15 record. Jesse has bumped up two weight classes. Last year he struggled with injuries but still managed to grind out 12 victories against 10 defeats. Owen Scott missed all of last year due to injury.
184: Billy George wrestled 197 last year and 174 as a freshman, so it only seemed appropriate to move to 184 this year. Last season, Billy finished with a 19-11 record. Billy will be challenged by freshman Gabe Dean, who was first and second at the Michigan state championships and senior Mike Alexander.
197: A beefed up Jace Bennett returned to campus ready to improve on last year’s impressive 31 victories. Pushing Jace will be Steve Congenie, a two-time Illinois state champion, and 2013 New York state titlewinner, Daniel Choi.
285: Stryker Lane, who has a 68-38 career record, returns for his senior year hoping to finally get on the podium in Oklahoma City. Pushing Stryker will be sophomore Jacob Aiken-Phillips (15-8 last year), George Famutimi and former 184 pounder (now 235 pounds and growing), Craig Scott.
Here are a few other notes about the upcoming season:
Nahshon Garrett at the All-Star Classic:
Before our season officially kicks off, you can see Nahshon Garrett in action at the All-Star Classic, where he will face All-American Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma at 125 pounds. The event, which features a number of the nation’s top wrestlers, will take place on November 2 at 7:15 p.m. on the campus of George Mason University.
To purchase tickets, visit the Ticketmaster website. For more information on the All-Star Classic, visit the NWCA website.
We have put together another challenging schedule this year. You can take a look at the following link: http://cornellbigred.com/schedule.aspx?path=wrest& or here.
Team USA vs. Team Russia in Ithaca!
On November 17, join us in Bartels Hall for a 1 p.m. dual between the Russian national team and a USA squad featuring former Big Red stars Kyle Dake, Cam Simaz and Frank Perrelli as well as Kellen Russell, Clayton Foster, Jimmy Kennedy and Tervel Dlagnev /Zach Rey. As part of the ticket price, national team coach Zeke Jones will host a freestyle clinic from 10-12. I hope you will be able to support our team!
Former Cornell wrestler Jamie Moffatt recently released his latest work on the fight to save Olympic wrestling. Please check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/SavingWrestlingBook