ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell had a good first day at the 2015 EIWA Championships at Lehigh on Friday afternoon, advancing all 10 wrestlers to day two, including eight in the championship semifinals. Despite six falls and 12 bonus wins, the Big Red still finds itself in a dogfight with the host school entering the final day while looking for an unprecedented ninth consecutive crown. Cornell enters day two with a slim five-point lead in Lehigh (93-88), with third-place Columbia more than 30 points in the rearview mirror.
The Big Red advanced top-seeded wrestlers Nahshon Garrett (125), Chris Villalonga (149), Brian Realbuto (157), Duke Pickett (174) and Gabe Dean (184) in the championship bracket, as well as second-seeded Dylan Palacio (165) and Jace Bennett (197) and fourth-seeded Mark Grey (133). Freshman Dylan Realbuto (141) and senior Jacob Aiken-Phillips (285) remain alive in the wrestlebacks and could still place as high as third.
Sophomore Dylan Palacio had an exciting first day, winning his first round match against Franklin & Marshall's Andy Francos in less than a minute before overcoming a 10-4 first period deficit in the quarterfinals to Harvard's Devon Gobbo, scoring 12 consecutive points before getting him in a cradle for the fall with just 18 seconds left in the match. He will look to avenge one of his two losses this season when he meets third-seeded Coleman Gracey of Army in the semifinals on Saturday morning.
Junior Nahshon Garreett, looking for his third consecutive EIWA title, earned a first period fall against Princeton's Ryan Cash in the opening round and a tech fall fighting eighth-seeded Zach Fuentes of Drexel. Garrett and Palacio weren't alone in the perfect first days.
Mark Grey earned a first period fall against Sacred Heart's Timothy Johnson before scratching out a 4-3 triumph against No. 5 seed Josh Terao in the quarters. His reward? A matchup with top-seeded Mason Beckman of Lehigh in tomorrow's semifinals.
Villalonga grinded out a pair of victories in typical fashion, besting Lehigh's Drew Longo 8-2 in the opener and moving onto the semifinals with a 3-1 triumph against Drexel's Matthew Cimato. Brian Realbuto also won a pair to advance in the championship bracket, topping Bucknell's Rustin Barrick 6-3 in the first round and eighth-seeded Brooks Martin of Penn by major decision in his second match of the day.
Pickett won a major decision against Jason Grimes of American after an exciting first period, then grinded out a 5-4 victory against Brown's Richard McDonald in the quarters.
Dean was his usual dominant self, earning a first period fall against Hofstra's Jermaine John for the second time this year before taking a 20-7 major vs. Navy's eighth-seeded Mike Woulfe to reach the semis.
Rounding out the eight wrestlers guaranteed a spot on the podium was Bennett, who pinned Hofstra's Mike Oxley in the second period and then dominated seventh-seeded Matt Idelson of Columbia 8-0 in the quarters.
Dylan Realbuto, a late add to the championship lineup, lost in the first round to second-seeded Jamel Hudson of Hofstra, but won an 8-2 decision against Franklin & Marshall's Robert Ruiz before advancing to Saturday with a medical forfeit in the consolation second round. Aiken-Phillips won his first match of the day before falling to second-seeded Joe Stolfi of Bucknell. He stayed alive with a 10-0 major decision against Navy's Colynn Cook in the consolation bracket.
Regardless of tomorrow's results, Brian Realbuto at 157 and Jace Bennett at 197 have already qualified for the 2015 NCAA championship as they can finish no lower than sixth. The 157-pound allocation from the NCAA is seven places deep and the 197-pound allocation is six athletes deep. A win tomorrow by Dylan Realbuto and Jacob Aiken-Phillips in the wrestlebacks would give Cornell 10 placewinners for the second consecutive season.
Advancing to the finals in every weight class guarantees an NCAA bid, so each of the eight semifinalists can punch their ticket to the big dance by winning their first matchup. All but 174 can advance to the NCAAs through the wrestlebacks. All 10 wrestlers have the opportunity to qualify for NCAAs on Saturday.