The wrestling team (6-4, 3-3 EIWA) hung close with shorthanded No. 4 Cornell (10-0, 8-0 EIWA) on Saturday before finally falling 22-15 in Ithaca.
The Big Red entered the match with four starters missing, at least three due to injury, according to Lion head coach Carl Fronhofer. Columbia took advantage of the four backups for all four of its wins.
First-year Markus Scheidel, sophomore Angelo Amenta, and sophomore Zack Hernandez won decisions at 157, 133, and 184 pounds, respectively. Junior Shane Hughes, ranked 10th in his weight class by Amateur Wrestling News, pinned his opponent at 174 pounds for the second straight meet.
But Cornell's starters took care of their business in the rest of the lineup, delivering a technical fall and two major decisions to go along with three decisions.
Fronhofer felt the meet had been within reach, especially if Columbia could have come up with one more win. He said he had hoped for a better result in the 165-pound bout, where No. 20 senior co-captain Josh Houldsworth lost a 12-5 decision to No. 10 Dylan Palacio.
“We lost a winnable match at 65 [165 pounds],” Fronhofer said. “We've got to learn some valuable lessons there. I think if we do that, we'll be in good shape down the stretch.”
Despite the loss, Columbia proved a legitimate challenge for the Big Red and its 33-meet winning streak against EIWA opponents, keeping the match within reach right up until the last bout.
Behind 15-6 after six bouts, the Lions roared back to tie the score behind a fall from Hughes at 174 pounds and a 6-3 decision by Hernandez at 184 pounds.
Cornell's No. 17 Jace Bennett won a major decision over junior Matt Idelson at 197 pounds to give the Big Red a 19-15 lead, but Columbia entered the final heavyweight bout with a chance to win with a fall or a technical fall.
Senior Conor Sweeney took on the Big Red's Jacob Aiken-Phillips in the 285-pound bout with the match on the line. Sweeney managed to keep the bout scoreless through a period, but Aiken-Phillips dominated the next two periods, riding Sweeney to a 6-0 decision and leading his team to the dual meet victory.
Fronhofer brushed off the close loss, reiterating that the team would approach its next opponent with a clean slate.
“We prepare the team every week to win every match we wrestle,” he said. “We'll continue to buy into the process and get better each weekend, and if we do that, we'll be in good shape.”
The Lions will face Princeton on Friday.
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