It came down to heavyweight.
At the Cornell Regional of the National Duals on Sunday, the Big Red led Nebraska 19-14 going into the final bout of the day.
Stryker Lane, who had made a successful return to the lineup earlier in the day with a pin against Hofstra after a long injury layoff, took the mat against the Spencer Johnson of the Cornhuskers.
After a scoreless first period, Lane began on top and while his opponent escaped, Lane aggravated his injury. The match was stopped while the heavyweight and the coaches talked about what came next.
The situation was clear – if Lane injury defaulted, Nebraska was headed to the National Duals quarterfinals next weekend in Minnesota instead of the Big Red.
“The discussion we had with Stryker was – you have to be tough,” said Cornell assistant coach Mike Grey. “Wrestle for your team right now and help the team advance. He obviously wanted to win the match, not lose close, but he got back out there and did a great job.”
“Stryker’s tough,” added 165-pounder Kyle Dake. “I knew he would be able to finish the match. He did it before for us against Harvard this year when he got hurt the first time. I think he was actually disappointed because he thought he could beat that kid.”
Lane finished with a 4-2 loss and the Big Red took the dual 19-17 to earn a spot in Minnesota next weekend.
The home team got off to a strong start against Nebraska, winning the first three bouts to take a 10-0 lead. Nahshon Garrett picked up a major at 125 while Bricker Dixon and Mike Nevinger recorded hard-fought decisions at 133 and 141.
The visiting team got on the board at 149 and 157 as Jake Sueflohn majored Chris Villalonga in a battle of ranked wrestlers before James Green won 5-2 over Cornell’s Jesse Shanaman.
And then Dake came to the mat for his final match in Ithaca as a member of the Big Red. He brought the crowd to its feet with his 16th pin of the season and his second of the day to give his squad a 16-7 advantage.
“It was bittersweet to wrestle my last match here,” Dake said. “But it was awesome, to be able to go out with a bang like that.”
“It was great for Kyle to get the pin in his last home match,” Grey added. “Everybody loves him and rightfully so. He’s a hometown kid who has been great for Cornell wrestling, Cornell University and wrestling in general. People who know nothing about wrestling know about Kyle Dake.”
Nebraska wasn’t finished, however. The Huskers won two of the next three bouts, including a major by Robert Kokesh over Marshall Peppelman at 174 and a come-from-behind triumph by Caleb Kolb over Jace Bennett at 197. In between, Steve Bosak looked sharp, riding Josh Ihnen for the entire second period, in a 3-0 victory at 184.
Those results set up the dramatic conclusion at heavyweight.
While Grey was pleased with the outcome of the dual, he said there was plenty of work to do before heading to Big 10 country.
“We had some guys put on very good performances against Nebraska,” Grey said. “But unfortunately, some guys reverted back to things that have led them to lose matches throughout the season. The good thing is, there’s wrestling next weekend. It’s another chance for some of our guys to be mentally tough and turn things around.”
There was nothing to be critical about in the first dual of the day for the Big Red, however. After dropping four of the first five bouts against Hofstra two weeks ago, Cornell came out firing on Sunday on the way to a 42-0 victory over the Pride.
“It was a great performance,” Grey said. “Everyone wrestled really well. We knew we had to have intensity from the get go and our lightweights got us off to a great start. In fact, our lightweights were great in general today. Nahshon [Garrett] looked great. I think we’re starting to see Bricker [Dixon] translating what he’s doing in the room onto the mat, and more importantly he’s starting to believe. Mike [Nevinger] seems to be hitting his stride, wrestling well at this time of the year, just like he did last year when he went on to be an All-American. It was nice to see more offense from him today.”
It wasn’t just the first few weights, however. Everyone contributed against Hofstra, including falls in the final three bouts by Bosak, Bennett and Lane.
In the third place match at the Regional, Virginia defeated Hofstra, 21-15. Getting in the win column for the Pride were Luke Vaith (141), Zeal McGrew (285) and Jamie Franco (133). Franco defeated George DiCamillo, currently ranked 13th in the country.
For more on the Cornell victories, see here.
For more on Hofstra’s day in Ithaca, see here.