Upon Further Review
With help from video review in two close matches the sixth-ranked Cornell Big Red won six straight bouts, two in overtime and defeated EIWA rival Lehigh in front of 1,951 loud but disappointed Lehigh fans at Leeman-Turner arena in Grace Hall, in an afternoon dual in Bethlehem, PA.
No. 1 Gabe Dean and No. 3 Nate Brown took the mat in the day’s feature event. With any hope of Lehigh winning the dual hinging on a Brown victory, the two exchanged escapes in the second and third periods, sending the bout to overtime. Midway through the first minute it appeared Brown had avoided a Dean takedown attempt on the edge of the circle. Cornell coach Rob Koll requested a review, and after checking the tape referee Nathan Chatman ruled that the Big Red sophomore had established control, giving him a 3-1 win.
Review also went against No. 11 Elliott Riddick at 197. After he and No. 14 Jace Bennett went to overtime in a 1-1 deadlock, some thought he might have pinned his opponent just as the first period overtime buzzer sounded, or at the very least had established control for a winning takedown. Again Chatman signaled no points, and again he was asked to review the play, this time by Lehigh’s head coach Pat Santoro.
This time, however, he ruled the video upheld his decision, and later Bennett used a second-period escape for a 2-1 victory.
Freshman Scott Parker got the crowd excited early with an escape and takedown at 125 against No. 3 Nahshon Garrett for a 3-2 lead. Parker (13-5) later got within 6-5 on a penalty point in the third period before Garrett (17-2) used a takedown and riding time for a hard-fought 9-5 win.
Wins by No. 11 Mason Beckman at 133 (9-4) and No. 20 Randy Cruz at 141 (3-0) gave No. 11 Lehigh a 6-3 lead after the first three bouts. Beckman started slow in his bout against Cornell’s backup (starter Mark Grey is out with a shoulder injury), giving up the first TD, but came back strong in evening the dual at 3-3. Bethlehem’s Cruz then dominated Cornell’s 141 lb, opponent from top position commanding the action with a strong leg ride. There was a scary moment where Randy almost pinned himself, but the fall was not called and the Lehigh benched breathed an almost audible sigh of relief.
Cornell’s nationally ranked Chris Villalonga then started a string of six Cornell victories with a workmanlike victory over Lehigh’s game but overmatched freshmen Drew Longo, 9-4.
The Mountain Hawks didn’t win another match again until Doug Vollaro’s overtime win at heavyweight. In between, Cornell (10-1) ran off those six straight wins, including three matchups of ranked wrestlers, beginning with Easton’s Mitch Minotti’s loss at 157 to Brian Realbuto in a battle of returning sophomore All-Americans.
With the match even at 6-6, Minotti, ranked No. 15, nearly brought the roof down when he hit the seventh-ranked Realbuto with a cement mixer to his back in the opening minute for a four-point move.
Later, he led 8-6 and only had to stay out of trouble in the final 30 seconds or so for the go-ahead win. However, Realbuto countered a Minotti shot, caught him in a cradle and picked up three back points for an 11-8 victory. Many felt that Minotti had been pinned.
Lehigh grad student Marshall Peppelman lost 9-3 to his former Cornell teammate Dylan Palacio at 165 and Lehigh’s Santiago Martinez lost 5-4 to Duke Pickett, the #1 ranked wrestler in the EIWA at 174.
Now it’s on to EIWA league action for both squads until they meet again in March at Stabler arena for the conference NCAA qualifier. For Lehigh it will be a chance at redemption and a shot at halting Cornell’s record run of eight straight EIWA championships.
Rob Koll before the match and post match
Brian Realbuto and Gabe Dean post match