Cornell crowns four EIWA champions, wins team title

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- The Cornell wrestling team continued its unprecedented dominance of the EIWA, crowning four individual champions and running away with the team title, an eighth consecutive. Cornell scored 165.5 points, placed all 10 of its wrestlers and qualified eight of them for the upcoming NCAA championships as the two-day tournament commenced on Sunday afternoon at The Palestra.

Cornell won titles at 125 pounds behind Nahshon Garrett, 149 pounds with Chris Villalonga, 184 pounds with Gabe Dean and 197 pounds from Jace Bennett. Additionally, Dylan Palacio dropped his finals match in sudden victory to place second. All five earned spots in the NCAA tourney.

Also earning a spot with an automatic qualifier was Mark Grey at 133 after pinning two opponents in the wrestlebacks to finish third, Mike Nevinger at 141 and Brian Realbuto (157). Nevinger lost a tight 3-0 decision to 10th-ranked Luke Vaith of Hofsta in the semifinals, then injury defaulted out of his consolation final against top-seeded Richard Durso of Franklin & Marshall to wind up in the fifth-place match. Needing a win to earn one of the qualifying berths, he pinned Tyson Dippery of Rutgers in just 1:16. Realbuto lost in Saturday's quarterfinals, but won three straight to get back into the third place match against Anthony Perrotti of Rutgers, where he lost a close decision.

Junior Jacob Aiken-Phillips placed fifth at 285, just one spot short of the automatic qualifier and will be a candidate for an at-large bid to the championships. Sophomore Duke Pickett finished seventh at 174 pounds and is likely a longshot to make 10 Big Red wrestlers at the NCAAs, something that has never happened in school history.

This championship may have been the most impressive of the eight, as it posted the second-largest margin of victory in more than 100 years of meet history. Its 64.5 point adantage over Lehigh was bettered only by the 1997 Penn team that scored an EIWA record 183 points and crowned six champs to take the meet by 79.5 points.

Cornell has now posted at least three EIWA champions in each of the last six seasons with its four, raising its all-time total to 142, second all-time to Lehigh. It was the program's 22nd EIWA title in program history. With Villalonga's win at 149 pounds, Cornell has won every weight class at least once int he last five seasons except at heavyweight. While the Big Red won four individual titles, no other school claimed more than one.

Garrett added another impressive win on his resume, topping American's David Terao for the third time this season with a 2-1 decision that was as dominant as a one-point, low scoring match could be. Garrett used an escape and ride time to pull out the win against Terao, who tried to slow down the pace against the offensive-minded Garrett. The Big Red sophomore became just the fourth Cornellian to win EIWA titles as a freshman and sophomore, joining Travis Lee '05, Mack Lewnes '11 and Cam Simaz '12. He advanced to the finals without having to wrestle in the morning session, as Bucknell's Paul Petrov was forced to medically forfeit.

Dean also had little trouble despite a low-scoring affair against a top 10 opponent, dispatching ninth-ranked Lorenzo Thomas of Penn, 3-1. Dean had another apparent takedown waived off and won despite having to sit through a review that was longer than the seven-minute match on its own. It was his first and only decision of the tournament, winning his other matches with a major, a tech and a semifinal pin of Harvard's Cameron Croy to set him up for his first EIWA title.

None of the titles came easy, with Villalonga winning his first championship with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Lehigh's Mitch Minotti in the lone matchup between the top two finishers in the finals. Villalonga had the lone takedown in the match. He earned his spot in the finals with another good, solid postseason-type win, knocking off Ken Theobold of Rutgers 3-1. It was Villalonga's second win of the season against both opponents.

The most exciting of the titles came with a last-second reversal by Bennett, who was taken down with less than 30 seconds remaining in the third. The reversal pushed him past Cody Reed of Binghamton by a 5-4 margin. He pinned Princeton's Abe Ayala in the semis in just 2:09 to send him to his first EIWA final.

Palacio just missed out on his first EIWA crown after surrendering a takedown to Hofstra's Joe Booth with just nine seconds left in the first tiebreaker. He had decisioned Josh Houldsworth of Columbia earlier in the afternoon by a 5-3 margin.

Mark Grey, who lost in the semifinals in sudden victory, bounced back in a big way with consecutive pins in the wrestlebacks to place third. He got Columbia's Angelo Amenta to his back 2:14 into the first round before pinning Vincent Dellefave of Rutgers, avenging one of his losses from earlier this season.

Possibly the gutsiest effort was by Mike Nevinger in picking up the final NCAA slot at 141. After being hurt in a semifinal loss to Hofstra's Luke Vaith, he medically forfeited out of the consolation semi against Durso, only to catch Dippery of Rutgers just 1:16 into the fifth-place match.

Realbuto earned his NCAA spot after finishing fourth at 157, winning three straight matches in the wrestlebacks before falling on a late four-point move by Perrotti from Rutgers. Realbuto was on the giving end of a tech fall against Princeton's Kevin Moylan before earning an 8-3 decision over Austin Sommer of Drexel.

Both Pickett and Aiken-Phillips won their final matches at EIWAs, with Pickett finishing seventh after a win over Brown's Richard McDonald and Aiken-Phillips getting an impressive win over Binghamton's Tyler Deuel for his 23rd victory of the year. PHILADELPHIA, Pa. The Cornell wrestling team advanced all 10 wrestlers to day two of the 2014 EIWA championships, taking control of the team race and placing seven in Sunday's semifinals with a dominant Saturday at the Palestra. The Big Red piled up 92 points to easily outdistance their closest competitors, Lehigh (62.5) and Rutgers (62).

The Big Red qualified Nahshon Garrett (125), Mark Grey (133), Mike Nevinger (141), Chris Villalonga (149), Dylan Palacio (165), Gabe Dean (184) and Jace Bennett (197) to tomorrow's semifinals and an opportunity to add to the school's long list of EIWA champions.

Despite falling into the consolation bracket, the Big Red's three other wrestlers all advanced in the wrestlebacks after falling in the quarterfinals and each are still alive to finish as high as third. Dylan Realbuto (157), Duke Pickett (174) and Jacob Aiken-Phillips (285) will continue their quests to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

The Big Red sent all 10 wrestlers through to the quarterfinals with seven winning their way into the semis and the other three winning their consolation bouts to remain in contention for third. Cornell pinned its way through three matches.

Garrett dominated both of his matches at 125, earning tech falls at the buzzer against Brown's Vincent Moita and an early second period match-ender against Brendan Campbell of Navy.

Grey eased his way through the first two rounds against Ivy opponents, earning an early takedown and three nearfall points against McKendry Bade in his first round major over the hometown Penn Quaker.

Nevinger reached the semifinals at 141 with a pair of usually dominant decisions, topping American's Tom Page, 8-4, then dropping Army's Tyler Rauenzahn, 8-1.

Villalonga made it 4-for-4 in the semifinals by outscoring his two opponents a combined 17-0 in picking up a pair of major decisions.

The first real upset came at 157 pounds after Realbuto's second period fall in the first round of Franklin & Marshall's Andrew Murano. He dropped a 4-3 decision to Columbia's Markus Scheidel after being taken down late, but bounced back strong with a major decision triumph over Penn's Raamiah Bethea, 9-1, in the wrestlebacks.

Palacio won a pair of interesting matches, including a quarterfinal victory where the referee twice awarded points to the wrong wrestler and held off a late nearfall attempt by Boston University's Mitchell Wightman to hold on for a 7-6 win.

After topping Keithen Cast of American by a 4-1 decision in the first round, Pickett lost to Brian Harvey of Army 3-0 in the quarters. His quest to get back to third place and earn a bid to NCAAs started in the wrestlebacks with a 10-7 win over Bucknell's Robert Schlitt.

Dean was his usual dominant self in a pair of bonus wins, earning a major decision over Rutgers' Dan Seidenberg (14-4) before earning a tech fall over Binghamton's Caleb Wallace less than a minute into the second period to cruise into the semifinals.

For the second time in less than a month, Bennett pinned Hofstra's Zeal McGrew in the first period and then held off Penn's Frank Mattiace in the quarters, part of a 3-0 day against the host Quakers.

Aiken-Phillips also won his opener with a 10-5 triumph over Navy's Colynn Cook before losing his second match, an 8-5 decision to Blake Herrin of American. The junior squeaked out a 4-3 decision over Hofstra's Michael Hughes in the consolation fourth round to stay alive.

Cornell will have a chance to clinch its eighth straight EIWA title when it hits the mats tomorrow for the semifinals and the back draw.


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