It’s been 12 years since Cornell wrestling lost an Ivy dual, its last one being a 21-9 loss to Penn at the Palestra in 2002.
The streak doesn’t appear to be in danger of stopping any time soon.
Saturday, the No. 4 Big Red returned to the site of their last Ivy loss and dealt the Quakers a smackdown, 32-(-1).
Cornell (8-0, 3-0 Ivy) subdued the Red and Blue (4-5, 0-1) early, using a series of major victories in the lighter weight classes to build a commanding lead.
Wrestling in his first match since January 2, 125-pound freshman Caleb Richardson didn’t have enough to hang with No. 1 Nahshon Garrett — his former sparring partner at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club — and fell in a tone-setting 10-2 major decision.
“It’s frustrating for [Richardson], I’m sure,” Penn coach Rob Eiter said. “He felt really good going into the match. He kind of got away from the game plan a little bit, and against the No. 1 kid in the country, you’ve got to stick with what we have put.”
It wasn’t until the 157-pound weightclass that the Red and Blue began to show signs of life.
Junior Steve Robertson hung in against No. 7 Brian Realbuto until the very end, falling 4-2, but showing the Quakers that Cornell was not invincible.
In the very next match, Penn nearly dealt the Big Red a stunning defeat.
165-pound sophomore Casey Kent wrestled fearlessly against No. 10 Dylan Palacio, neutralizing Palacio’s skill with his own size.
But with the score tied at two and time running out in the third period, Kent let Palacio pick up the winning points while on the ground to give Cornell another 4-2 win and push the overall match edge to 20-0.
As time hit triple zeroes, a distraught Kent laid on the ground for several moments, knowing he had let a tremendous opportunity literally slip from his grasp.
“Today, [Kent] was a little lackadaisical, kind of feeling out Palacio,” Eiter said. “In a situation like that, Casey’s got to [make the winning move] in the first minute, not the last minute.”
The Red and Blue had another close call against a top individual foe just two matches later.
At 184 pounds, junior Lorenzo Thomas was undeterred by neither the golden pre-match record of No. 2 Gabe Dean (25-2), nor the ranking next to his name.
Thomas was able to remain within striking distance much of the match, but his third-period rally wasn’t nearly enough, as he fell, 7-5.
“Lorenzo hasn’t wrestled well since we came back from break,” Eiter said. “Even in this match, he didn’t have the spark he needed to have … it’s frustrating, because you can see how close he is to these top-ranked kids.”
A 3-1 win at 285 pounds by the Big Red’s Jacob Aiken-Phillips over Penn’s Steve Graziano — his second in the pair’s last three meetings — was the final near-miss of the day, giving Cornell what appeared to be a 32-0 winning margin.
But, to add insult to injury, the Quakers were docked a team point for receiving a pair of bench warnings during the match, pushing their score into the negative numbers.
Now, Penn can only forget the negatives and try to focus on the positives of a much-improved effort, albeit against a superior opponent.
“I think we came out with a much better attitude and fight in us,” Eiter said. “Little, tiny mistakes, little things that we’re working on right now, were really the factor in the match.”