What: #23 Hofstra University vs. #3 Cornell University
When: Sunday February 8th, 2009
Time: 5pm EST
Where: David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex
Coverage: Live Text (Courtesy of Light House Wrestling)
The Matchup: #20 Steve Bonanno (HU) vs. #2 Troy Nickerson (Cornell)
Synopsis: Despite splitting last weekend (Lost to UPenn’s Rollie Peterkin; Beat Drexel’s Michael Gomez), Bonanno finds himsef in the national rankings for the first time in his young collegiate career. Thus far in 2009, the Wantagh, NY native has been everything that Pride could have asked for and more. He is quickly helping HU fans forget about four-year starter, Dave Tomasette. However, if the past two weeks have exposed anything weakness in the true freshman’s game, it is his struggles to get off bottom, a problem common to most first year college wrestlers. Unfortunately for the Pride, #2 Nickerson is at his best when working from the top position. Had this been a bout where Bonanno’s opponent for more of a takedown artist than a tilter/turner, I would like the true freshman’s chances a whole lot more. But, given the Two-time All-American from Cornell’s above average ability to score from top, Pride fans need to be concerned that should Bonanno surrender the first takedown of this match, Nickerson could potentially open up the margin, in such the same fashion he did to Missouri’s Troy Dolan. After sitting out all of 2008 with a should ailment, Nickerson started this year slow, wrestling extremely conservatively. But, of late, he has seemingly to form, piling up bonus points left and right. Unless Bonanno is able to explode from bottom and get free, he may find himself as the next victim of the former 5x NYS Champion.
Prediction: Nickerson Wins by Major Decision
Projected Team Score: 4-0 Cornell
Result: Nickerson (Cornell) MD Bonanno (HU), 10-2
The Matchup: #8 Lou Ruggirello (HU) vs. #12 Mike Grey (Cornell)
Synopsis: If you look at their season records and national rankings, one would think that Ruggirello should be considered a slight favorite in this bout. After all, despite earning All-American honors last season, ’08/’09 has been less than spectacular for the former four-time NJ State Champion, Grey. Ruggirello on the other hand, has been about as steady in duals as one can be. Factor in the home crowd and it would seem that this weight class has the makings of a possible HU win. While this is certainly true, and 133 would best fit into the toss-up category, gut feeling tells me that it will be Grey, not Ruggirello, who gets his hand raised today. Rosholt had Padden, Morgan had Griffin; when it comes to the Grey/Ruggirello match-up, Mike Grey just seems to be a unicorn for the Pride junior out of Valley Central. In their three meetings over the past two years, Grey has won all three, widening the gap slightly in the third meeting. If Ruggirello wants to get the monkey off of his back, he is going to need to start strong. Always more comfortable on the mat, if the king can secure the first takedown, look for him to work tirelessly to lock up a tilt or double bars. The last time Ruggirello took the mat at the Mack, he let a victory over #2 Reece Humphrey slip away in the closing seconds. If the Pride have any realistic chance of pulling the upset over the highly favorered Big Red, 133 is going to need to be one of the weight classes that they take.
Prediction: Grey Wins By Decision
Projected Team Score: 7-0 Cornell
Result: Ruggirello (HU) Dec Grey (Cornell), 6-0
The Matchup: Justin Accordino (HU) vs. Corey Manson (Cornell)
Synopsis: In last week’s previews, I made mention of how I was impressed with Accordino’s ability to hit the cement mixer on a semi regular basis. When I said that, I did not mean to suggest that the big move is all he should look for. In his 8-2 loss to UPenn’s Rappo, it seemed that all the Wilkes-Barre native tried to do for seven minutes is connect on the cement mixer. When he could not hit it, he seemed to be lacking for other offense. Despite being extremely up and down in his RS freshman campaign, Accordino has wrestled well at home, as evident by his near upset over 2008 National Champion, J Jaggers (Ohio State). Much like 133, in order for Hofstra to keep their upset hopes alive, a win at 141 will be necessary. While Manson has shown an ability to hang with some of the best that the US has to offer, dropping close decisions to the likes of Nick Gallick (Iowa State), Chris Diaz (Virginia Tech), and Kellen Russell (Michigan) among others, he has still only managed to compile a sub. 500 record. Hence, if there is any one weak spot in the current Big Red starting lineup, in comparison, it way be Manson. Just like the bout preceeding it, 141 is so evenly matched that it could easily go either way. However, with this being the last time he will wrestle in front of the home fans, hopefully Accordino comes out like a man on a mission and seizes control of this one for his team.
Prediction: Accordino Wins By Decision
Projected Team Score: 7-3 Cornell
Result: Accordino (HU) Pins Manson (Cornell) 4:05
The Matchup: Jeff Rotella (HU) vs. DJ Meagher (Cornell)
Synopsis: Meagher already has a 4-0 decision over Pride starter, P.J. Gillespie, in 2009. Therefore, even if this was a match-up of the the two regulars, I would still consider Meagher to have the advantage. Therefore, the expected absence of Gillespie should not effect whom I was predicting to win the match. What Gillespie’s injury does do, is put the Pride in significant danger of sufferending bonus points at a time that they can little afford to do so. In the two years that Rotella has seen Varsity mat time, I can recall him winning only one match and that was against a struggling opponent from Wagner who was leading him when Rotella hit a flyer cement job to get the fall. What is worse, is that Rotella, competing up at least one weight class, has never shown an ability to fight off bonus points against larger opponents. Last week, when it appeared that he would be able to keep his match with Cesar Grajales to only a major decision, Rotella gave up the fall with :10 remaining. Even though Meagher enters this dual sporting only a slightly better than .500 record, there is no reason to think that he will not be able to control this bout for the full seven minutes (if it goes the distance). For Meagher, the key is going to be to mantain the pressure and continue to make Rotella work. Being the smaller man, the HU wrestler is likely to wear down over the course of the match. Therefore, if Meagher leads by four or more points heading into the final period, expect for him to start playing the take him down/let him up game in order to lock up at least one bonus point for the Big Red….Fran O’Brien is also an option for the Pride.
Prediction: Meagher Wins By Major Decision
Projected Team Score: 11-3 Cornell
Result: Meagher (Cornell) Pins O’Brien (HU) 2:06
The Matchup: #16 Jon Bonilla-Bowman (HU) vs. #5 Jordan Leen (Cornell)
Synopsis: Along with 133, this bout is the most anticipated match of the day. Leen, the defending National Champion, has very much picked up in 2009 where he left off in 2008. Already owning wins over several top-10 wrestlers this season, Leen will be biggest challenge that JBB has seen in weeks. Leen is good in all three positions. However, if there is one element to his game that may bother Bonilla-Bowman the most, it will be the Big Red wrestler’s riding ability. It is no secret that JBB likes to turn every match he is in into a scoring war. Because Leen is so good on top, he in all likelihood will be able to slow down the pace and shorten the match. A notorious slow starter, the shorter the match, the more it will work against the Hofstra junior. JBB must go into this bout expecting to not be able to turn in a third period rally. Instead, he must focus on keeping this bout close and then hope that his superior conditioning will enable him to pull the upset with a late takedown. If Bonilla-Bowman goes into a 6-2, 8-3 hole early, do not rule out bonus points for Cornell. Unlike previous JBB opponents, I have a hard time thinking that Leen will gas in the third period. Hence, if left to take desperation shots, the defending CAA Champion could easily allow the margin to slip into MD territory. On the flipside, if the Pomona, NY native is able to penetrate Leen’s defense early, you can expect that the crowd will become very involved. For JBB, the roar of the crowd has always been a motivating factor. The closer this bout is heading into the final period, the more realistic the HU wrestler’s upset chances are. Still, I cannot pick against a returning National Champion, hostile crowd or not.
Prediction: Leen Wins by Decision
Projected Team Score: 14-3 Cornell
Result: Leen (Cornell) Pins Bonilla-Bowman (HU) 6:44