Wrestling Claims Unprecedented 12th Straight Ivy Title With Nailbiter Over Columbia

Updated: February 8, 2014

ITHACA, N.Y. — Heading into the final two matches of its Ivy League dual with Columbia tied at 15-15, it fell on unheralded Jace Bennett and Jacob Aiken-Phillips to bring home Cornell wrestling’s 12th consecutive Ivy league title. The upperclassmen delivered.

The pair of juniors each earned dominant wins without surrendering a point to give the Big Red a 22-15 victory over the Lions in a hard-fought dual on Saturday afternoon at Friedman Wrestling Center. Cornell improved to 10-0 on the season (5-0 Ivy) to earn its 63rd straight Ivy dual win and continue an unprecedented run of success. No Ivy team in any sport has won more consecutive Ancient Eight titles in conference history than the Big Red’s 12. In fact, no one else has won 11 consecutive.

After No. 11 Shane Hughes pinned Craig Eifert at 174 pounds and Zack Hernandez was able to carve out a 6-3 decision over Billy George at 184 pounds to knot the team score at 184, there might have been some trepidation in Friedman. Not on Jace Bennett‘s face.

The junior earned a takedown in the first 20 seconds and was able to tilt Matt Idelson for three near-fall points by the end of the first to take a 5-0 lead as part of what would eventually be an 11-0 major decision to give Cornell some breathing room. Aiken-Phillips had the same type of dominant effort at heavyweight. After a scoreless first period that Aiken-Phillips controlled, the junior earned a quick escape in the second and a takedown to make it 3-0 heading into the third. He added another takedown in the third and added in riding time for the victory, improving to 16-7 on the season.

Without four starters in the lineup, Cornell was never able to run away despite dominance at the top. Two of Cornell’s wins came by decision with seven-point victories, one point shy of a major.

One match that was never in doubt started Cornell off on the right foot, as top-ranked Nahshon Garrett secured seven takedowns and a couple near falls en route to a 21-5 tech fall triumph for the sophomore at 125 pounds. The victory extended his win streak to 16 straight matches.

After Angelo Amenta got the Lions on the board with a tight 3-1 decision over Bricker Dixon at 133, Mike Nevinger ran out to a 7-0 lead, survived a late second period reversal and nearfall and closed out an 11-4 triumph over Matt Bystol at 141 to moved Cornell to an 8-3 lead.

That would grow to 12-3 after 149, as No. 8 Chris Villalonga was too much for Connor Sutton in a 15-1 major decision. The senior had three separate nearfalls and only a free escape for Sutton in the first kept Villalonga from a shutout.

Columbia’s rally began at 157, as Markus Schiedel held off Taylor Simaz for a 7-5 overtime decision. The Cornell freshman had a late escape and takedown in the third to send it to overtime, but Schiedel was able to earn the match-winning takedown in the one-minute sudden victory period to make it 12-6 Big Red at intermission.

Dylan Palacio topped Josh Houldsworth of Columbia 12-5 at 165, but it was the Lion whose late escape and takedown erased Palacio’s bonus point win in the third. Palacio otherwise dominated  ahigh-scoring third with two takedowns and a three-point nearfall.

The highlight of the night for Columbia was Shane Hughes picking up the first period pin over Craig Eifert, followed by Zack Hernandez’s 6-3 decision over Billy George to knot the score heading into the final two bouts.