I like Cornell University Head Coach, Rob Koll; I really do. However, if he continues to make these recruiting press releases a daily ritual, than I am afraid I am going to have to end our friendship….While it goes without saying that the previous statement was obviously meant in good fun, the one thing that is not a joke is the amazing job that Koll and staff have been doing thus far in landing elite talent from the class of 2011. As the calendar switches to October and next month’s early signing period will be here before we know it, there has been no rest for the weary in Ithaca as seemingly every day a new blue-chip recruit is informing us that they have selected the Big Red as their college choice. Less than 24 hours after putting the finishing touches on the press release announcing that #65 recruit, Joe Rendina, has decided on the returning NCAA runners-up, I find myself experiencing a touch of deja vu as again I am back on my laptop to formally break the news that for the second straight evening, an InterMat top-100 recruit, #93 Duke Pickett of Woodberry Forest High School has given a verbal commitment to the Ivy League institution of higher learning. Pickett, a 2010 Virginia State Champion, becomes the third top-100 honoree and fifth overall student-athlete to pick (no pun intended) Cornell. He joins Rendina, along with #79 Caleb Richardson and twin NYS DII champs Craig and Owen Scott.
Pickett, who shook off a disappointing sophomore campaign in 2009 that saw him go a steady 32-13 but settle for fourth place honors at the state tournament, really rallied last season, accumulating a 41-3 overall record @ 140 on his way towards earning his first title in two finals appearances (In 2008, he was the state runner-up @112). In a situation where his school also participated in the National Prep tournament, Pickett added a national runner-up finish, with his finals loss coming by a score of 10-5 to recent University of North Carolina committee, Evan Henderson of the Kiski School. By virtue of this impressive bounce back season, the multiple-sport athlete (he currently is playing tailback for Tiger football program), will bring a 108-24 career record into his senior campaign.
In addition to his 2nd place finish at prep nationals, the future Big Red wrestler has more than held his own against the best the country has to offer, racking up a laundry list of solid credentials, starting with a fifth place finish at the prestigious Beast of the East tournament in a weight class that coincidentally was won by future teammate Chris Villalonga….With the intend of fully solidifying his position among the nation’s elite, Pickett took his talents to the inaugural FloNationals, a decision that ultimately paid dividends when he emerged with a fourth place finish to claim all-American distinction…Demonstrating that he also possesses some skills in the international styles, Pickett added another all-American honor to his resume when he placed 7th at the USAW Junior National Freestyle tournament.
Projected on the collegiate level as a 157-pounder, Pickett, like the rest of the Cornell class of 2015 cohort will have plenty of quality workout partners ready to culminate his natural ability. Whether it be Craig Eifert, Jesse Shanaman, Marshall Peppelman, or any of the other countless studs in the Friedman Wrestling Center, Pickett will have every opportunity in the world to reach his full potential.
Every one at Lighthouse Wrestling sincerely extend their congratulations to Duke, his family, his coaches, as well as our friends at Cornell on what is surely very exciting breaking news for all parties involved. In addition, we wish Pickett and his Tiger teammates the very best of fortune on a successful upcoming season.
2010 FloNationals Quarterfinals: Pickett (VA) vs. Gibbs (MI)