NEW YORK – The Columbia wrestling team is set for its first Ivy League match Saturday when it visits No. 4 Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. Saturday’s first bout will begin at 1 p.m. in The Friedman Wrestling Center, with fans unable to attend able to watch live on the Ivy League Digital Network.
The Lions carry a five-match win streak into Saturday’s contest, including EIWA wins against Binghamton, American and Bucknell. Columbia and Bucknell competed in a heavily contested match on Jan. 24 that was decided by a bout-point tiebreaker, with the Lions edging the Bison 41-39.
Cornell sports an unblemished 9-0 record, with four wins over Ivy League opponents. A victory on Saturday for the Big Red will give them their 12th consecutive Ancient Eight title and their first undefeated dual season since 1927-28. The young Cornell lineup (four first-tears and two sophomores) features seven grapplers ranked in the top-20 of the latest W.I.N. Magazine poll.
Probable Lineups (Rankings are: InterMat/AWN/WIN)
Penn Gottfried (12-11) vs. No. 1/1/1 Nahshon Garrett (22-1)
Gottfried will face his toughest challenge of the season, going up against the top-ranked wrestler in all three national polls, Garrett. The wrestlers have been streaking in different direction of late, as Gottfried has just one win in the Lions’ last six duals, while Garrett has been victorious in 15 straight bouts.
Angelo Amenta (12-9) vs. No. 15/14/14 Mark Grey (20-4)
Amenta had a four-bout win streak snapped against Bucknell’s Grim Gonzalez in a 5-2 decision on Jan. 24. Despite the loss, Amenta stands at 6-3 during dual competition and has two major decisions this season. Grey reached the 20-win mark with victoriess against Penn’s Ken Bade and Princeton’s Jake Intrator on Feb. 1, pinning the Tigers grappler in 1:50. Of his four losses, three have come against ranked opponents.
Matt Bystol (15-7) vs. No. 7/5/7 Mike Nevinger (9-1)
This bout features a pair of NCAA qualifiers from 2013 in Bystol and All-American Nevinger. Columbia’s senior co-captain got back on track with his second straight win on Jan. 24, downing Bucknell’s Connor Lapresi with an 8-3 decision. Since losing his first bout of the season to Maryland’s Shyheim Brown, Nevinger has reeled off nine straight wins, including two major decisions and a fall.
Ryan Ponte (9-3) vs. No. 6/4/8 Chris Villalonga (24-2)
Ponte suffered just his third defeat of the season on Jan. 24 against the Bison, falling to Victor Lopez, 7-1. Of his nine wins, two have come via fall and two more by major decision. Villalonga opened the season with 16 victories before his first loss to then No. 1 Kendric Maple from Oklahoma. He has won his last three bouts, including decisions against No. 10 Mitch Minotti from Lehigh and No. 19 Adam Krop from Princeton.
Markus Scheidel (20-7) vs. No. 10/7/6 Brian Realbuto (27-4)
Scheidel concluded an undefeated month of January (6-0) with a 10-3 decision over Bucknell’s Ray Schlitt. Half of Scheidel’s victories have ended with him earning bonus with eight major decisions and two falls. Realbuto is tied with Gabe Dean with a team-high 27 victories for the Big Red. Since losing consecutive matches at the Southern Scuffle, Realbuto has won six straight, highlighted by an 8-0 major decisions over No. 8 Joey Napoli from Lehigh.
No. -/20/- Josh Houldsworth (18-8) vs. No. 14/10/17 Dylan Palacio (22-6)
The 165-pound bout features two NCAA qualifiers in Houldsworth and Palacio. Both wrestlers have had solid showings through the month of January. Columbia’s co-captain went 5-1 in in dual bouts with his narrow 1-0 toppling of Bucknell’s Rustin Barrick on Jan. 24 proving to be a crucial bout win to the Lions match victory over the Bison. Palacio’s only loss in 12 bouts came at the Southern Scuffle against top-ranked David Taylor from Penn State.
No. 20/10/11 Shane Hughes (15-6) vs. Duke Pickett (14-5)
Junior Shane Hughes has been nothing short of spectacular on the mat for Columbia since late December. A runner-up finish at Midlands preceded six straight dual victories. Against Bucknell’s Joey Krulock, Hughes battled back after a controversial non-call on an escape to pin Krulock with just eight seconds remaining. It was his third fall in five bouts. Pickett will be looking to bounce back from a 7-4 loss to Princeton’s Ryan Callahan on Feb. 1. Each of his other four defeats have come against opponents ranked in the top-20 nationally.
Zack Hernandez (17-6) vs. No. 3/2/3 Gabe Dean (27-2)
Hernandez joins Scheidel and Hughes as the only three Columbia wrestlers to complete January undefeated (6-0). Each of Hernandez’s wins came via decision, including his most recent 8-2 victory over Rory Bonner from Bucknell. Dean hasn’t lost since a 5-3 decision to No. 3 Jimmy Sheptuck on Dec. 1, winning 18 straight bouts. Along the way he has notched four falls, four tech falls and one major decision.
Matt Idelson (6-9) vs. No. -/17/- Jace Bennett (22-7)
Idelson has found himself in a number of close bouts during the dual portion of the schedule. Outside of his pin of Gardner-Webb’s Terry Henderson, Idelson has been in four bouts decided by four points or less. Bennett has won his last four bouts, but his most recent loss came at the hands of Harvard’s James Fox in an 8-4 decision on Jan. 18.
Conor Sweeney (9-8) or Wyatt Baker (7-12) vs. Jacob Aiken-Phillips (15-7)
A slight lower body injury to Baker pushed Sweeney into the starting lineup against Bucknell, a bout he lost to No. 20 Joe Stolfi. Aiken-Phillips has lost two of his last three bouts, falling to No. 18 Billy Smith in overtime, 3-2, and then he dropped a major decision, 12-2, to Ray O’Donnell from Princeton.