Big Red Repeat As Scuffle Champions: Dake, Lewnes, and Simaz Win Individual Crowns

Cornell Big Red
Cornell Big Red

They practice scrambling at Cornell; this is a certainty. If the finals of the 2009 Southern Scuffle on the campus of UNC-Greensboro taught us nothing else, it is that Big Red wrestlers have made an art out of countering their opponents’ offensive attacks and utilizing their scrambling ability to remain in control of matches at all times…If you need convincing, I suggest that tomorrow when the video hits the intermit, you check out the masterful job that true freshman, Kyle Dake, did in his 141-pound title bout against Minnesota’s Mike Thorn. A battle of two top-10 ranked wrestlers in the nation, Dake not only maneuvered his way out of a spladle-like predicament early in the first period, he also continually got the best of the not stop hit/react action that best described the final period of the title match…Trailing 4-2 to start the third period, the former 3x NHSCA National Champion, quickly scored the reversal to even the match. However, realizing that a Thorn escape could very well be all she wrote, the true freshman from Lansing, NY did whatever it took to avoid surrendering that make or break point…Dake’s efforts paid off as he successfully rode out remainder of the period, thus locking up the riding time point to claim the title by a score of 5-4. This victory was doubly special for the CU wrestler in that in addition to individual glory, the win served as the nail in second place, Minnesota’s coffin as the Big Red repeated as the team champions at the annual holiday tournament.

Equally entertaining was the 174-pound final as Dake’s teammate, #1 seed Mack Lewnes repeatedly scrambled his way out of trouble against UVA’s Chris Henrich…Scoreless after the first period, the 2008 All-American for the Big Red got on the board first with an escape early in the second period. He would increase the lead to 3-0 with a low single with short time on the clock and ride out the final few seconds to keep the shutout in tact….Henrich would successfully escape to start the final period, but it would not be long before he found himself back on bottom as Lewnes again was able to convert a funk position into a TD to seize control of the match 5-1…The bout would end with Lewnes riding tough, earning over 1:00 of riding time to account for the final 6-1 tally and give Coach Rob Koll his second champion of the evening…Lewnes would be named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.

The Big Red would crown their third and final individual champion two weight classes later as sophomore 197-pounder, Cam Simaz, scored early and often, finishing a pair of double-legs to lead 4-1 at the end of the first period over Ohio University’s Erik Schuth. A second period escape by Schuth would cut the deficit in half, but Simaz, a returning All-American from last season, remained on the attack, converting a single attempt with just under a minute remaining in the middle frame to grow the lead to 6-2…Schuth would escape again before the end of the period, but would get no closer as Simaz never relinquished command, earning an escape, two takedowns, and the riding point in cruising to a 12-4 major decision victory…To his credit, Schuth had a heck of a two-day run, making it all of the way to the finals despite being seeded 7th.

In what could be considered as both the most exciting and the biggest upset of the finals, it was Edinboro wrestler (competing unattached while redshirting in ’09-’10) Chris Honeycutt getting the best of top-seed/#3 ranked wrestler in the nation, Dustin Kilgore (Kent State), by a score of 7-5…Deadlocked at 3-3 with at the sub one minute mark of the final period, it was Kilgore who appeared destined to earn the hardware, completing a takedown attempt with 48 seconds remaining to lead 5-3…However, as a true testament to the importance of wrestling to the final whistle, Honeycutt not only was able to secure a much needed reversal, he was able to hit it to Kilgore’s back for 2+2 to steal the trophy in the closing seconds.

Getting his hand raised in the “marathon match” of the final session was North Carolina 157-pounder, Thomas Scotton….Exchanging second and third period escapes, Scotton and his Indiana opponent Kurt Kinser, went into the sudden victory period all squared at one apiece….After a scoreless one minute interval, both men took a turn on bottom in the :30 tiebreaker periods. But, again nothing could be settled as each was successful in holding the other down, thus keeping the bout at a 1-1 standstill…Another one minute sudden victory period came and went without much incident….So, once again the fierce competitors headed into another pair of tiebreaker periods…..And FINALLY, after what must have seemed like an eternity for those of us watching from home, a crooked number was put on the board as Scotton successfully escaped in the later half of the ride-out period to emerge with the 2-1 victory….This bout, contested among the #3 (Scotton) and #4 seeds was the only championship match not to include the #1 or #2 seeds. In a battle for the bronze, it was second-seeded Bryce Saddoris from the Naval Academy defeating top-seeded Matt Moley (Bloomsburg).

One Cinderella story that ended prematurely was that of Moley’s teammate, 165-pounder Rick Schmelyun…A 15-2 win over the defending National Champion, Jarrod King (Edinboro) in the semifinals, heading into the title bout, it appeared that the stars may have been perfectly aligned for the fifth seeded Schmelyun…Too bad 2006 National Champion, Dustin Schlatter (Minnesota), is no astrologist…Scoring the initial takedown early in the first period, the three-time All-American (who returned this season after redshirting in ’08-’09 and making the US World Freestyle Team), Schlatter proceeded to ride out the next two minutes plus to lead 2-0 at the end of the first period….Not ready to concede, Schmelyun would return the favor, riding the entire two minutes of the second period to keep himself within striking range…Electing to begin the final two minutes from neutral, Schmelyun tried valiantly to attack. However, the impenetrable defenses of the Gopher senior proved to be too much, as Schlatter kept solid positioning at all times and converted a throw-by attempt into the takedown to seize the 4-0 lead…Schmelyun was able to get out from bottom, but not until his opponent has regained the 1:00 of riding time advantage…It would be this point that accounted for the final 5-1 score.

Joining Schlatter as an individual champion for the University of Minnesota was 133-pounder/top-seed Jayson Ness….Leading 3-0 at the end of the second period, Ness would secure an early takedown to begin the final period to increase the lead to 5-0…However, his Kent State opponent, Dan Mitcheff was far from ready to roll over and give the title to the three-time All-American…Getting on the board with an escape, Mitcheff was able to get within three points of Ness, finishing a double-leg with a little less than a minute remaining. However, the comeback was not meant to be, as Ness would add an escape and the riding point to put a capper on his 7-3 title winning performance.

On a night where almost all of the title bouts lived up to the hype, the one that did not was the most highly anticipated of the bunch. In what was being billed as a war between the reigning NCAA Champion (Cornell’s Troy Nickerson) and the former NCAA Champion (Indiana’s Angel Escobedo), the match was over almost as quickly as it started….Approximately 30 seconds into the 125-pound title match, Nickerson, who has long been plagued by recurring shoulder dislocations, appeared to have his shoulder pop out again…While it is believed that the Big Red medical staff was able to quickly get the shoulder back in the socket, Nickerson’s evening would be over as the Cornell staff made the decision to act on the side of caution and not risk further injury to their three-time All-American/2x NCAA Finalist…125 would be the first of two eventual injury defaults in the finals, as Army’s Matt Kyler claimed the 149-pound title after fellow EIWA competitor, Cesar Grajales (UPenn) was unable to bounce back from a knee injury…It should be noted that Grajales made every attempt possible to continue. However, with the injury clock has been exhausted and his knee clearly lacking stability, the former Brandon High School stud had no choose but to forego his championship aspirations. At the time of the default, Kyler lead 3-0.

In the final bout of the evening, it was top-seeded Nate Evrehart (Indiana) welcoming back Navy’s Scott Steele (sat out the first semester of ’09-’10) to the collegiate ranks by tallying the only takedown of the match to win a hard fought 3-2 decision….Scoreless after the first period, the Hoosier wrestler recorded all of his points in the middle stanza, earning an escape, followed by a takedown…Steele, who Lighthouse fans may remember seeing on the USA/Russia live broadcast from the NYAC, earned an escape in each of the final two periods.

Other placewinners for Cornell included: 133-Mike Grey (3rd); 165- Justin Kerber (5th); 184- Steve Bosak (5th), and heavyweight- Josh Arnone (6th).

For complete results, click here.

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