The wrestling team (6-3, 3-2 EIWA) will put its five-meet winning streak on the line against No. 4 Cornell (9-0, 7-0 EIWA) this Saturday.
After a tight win over Bucknell two weeks ago, the Lions will have their hands full against the seven-time defending conference champion Big Red, which is coming off a 36-7 pounding of Princeton (5-2, 5-2 EIWA) last weekend.
According to Amateur Wrestling News, Cornell boasts eight wrestlers ranked in the top 20 in their weight classes. Columbia has two: No. 10 junior Shane Hughes at 174 pounds and No. 20 senior co-captain Josh Houldsworth at 165 pounds.
Head coach Carl Fronhofer said the odds don't affect how the team prepares for the meet.
“It doesn't matter who we wrestle,” Fronhofer said. “They have 10 guys. We have 10 guys. We scout their 10 opponents, create a game plan for all of them.
“The expectation is to compete hard and to try to execute the game plan. And if you do that, you give yourself the best chance to win.”
Houldsworth acknowledged that the task would be difficult, but also said that the team's approach hadn't changed.
“We're going to fight every match,” he said. “It's going to be tough matches up and down the lineup, and hopefully, we come away with enough wins to win the dual meet.”
Fronhofer highlighted Houldsworth's bout at 165 pounds as one that Columbia would need to win if it hoped to beat Cornell.
“There are some matches like that that I think are absolutely critical for us to have a chance to win the dual [meet]. We have to win all of those,” he said.
He emphasized that some Columbia wrestlers who lingered just outside the top 20 would have good opportunities to upset their ranked Big Red opponents.
“There's a few individual weights where we might be the underdog, but it's a really good opportunity,” Fronhofer said. “We have a lot to gain. They don't.”
The match begins at 1 p.m. Saturday in Ithaca, N.Y.
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Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that the Lions would be looking for their fifth straight win. A win over Cornell would be the Light Blue's sixth, not fifth. Spectator regrets the error.