Time expired and Vince Cornella had a 6-4 lead on the scoreboard against Yoshinosuke Aoyagi of Japan in the bronze medal match at 65 kg at the U20 World Championships in Bulgaria.
However, a challenge by the Japanese coaches changed the score to 6-6 and on criteria Aoyagi grabbed the bronze, with Cornella taking a hard fought fifth place in a loaded bracket.
The Cornell freshman put together an impressive tournament, beginning with an 8-0 victory over U20 Asian Championships bronze medalist Olzhas Olzhakanov of Kazakhstan. He followed with a 10-0 technical fall versus Ismail Pomakov of Bulgaria to earn a spot in the quarters.
There he faced Mohamed Asadollah Shakeri of Iran, and Cornella trailed 4-0 in the second period. However, he took control late, securing the winning takedown with less than 20 seconds remaining in an exciting 6-5 win that sent him to the semis.
In a tight bout, eventual champion Umidjon Jalolov defeated Cornella in the gold medalist's closest match of the event.
Now, after a stellar summer, Cornella will turn his attention to folkstyle where he will look to rack up victories at 141 pounds for the Big Red.
"You're going to make the Junior World team."
That's what Spartan Combat RTC head coach Frank Perrelli told incoming Cornell freshman Vince Cornella after the Bill Farrell Memorial International in April.
Cornella had wrestled at the Senior level in 65 kg freestyle at the event, taking fourth place.
"I thought I wrestled ok overall," Cornella said. "I wrestled [NCAA All-American Matthew] Kolodzik pretty tough. When [Perrelli] said that, I was inspired that he expected me to perform well at the US Open.
That's exactly what Cornella did.
In Las Vegas at the Junior US Open, he won all six of his matches, including two by technical fall. Among those he topped was NCAA qualifier Ryan Jack of North Carolina State.
That championship provided Cornella with a bye to the best-of-three finals series at the Junior World Team Trials.
His opponent was the winner of the Challenge Tournament, Carter Young of Oklahoma State. Young has an impressive hit list on the freestyle circuit. In fact, in 2021, Young bested Nahshon Garrett, Tyler Graff, and Seth Gross during the same tournament.
"He has quite the resume," Cornella said. "We were always a similar size and weight growing up but I think we only wrestled once, when we were maybe nine or ten years old. I was just excited to wrestle elite level competition like Carter."
In round one, Young emerged with a 4-3 victory, and the Cowboy wrestler took an 8-1 lead in bout number two after the opening period. That's when Cornella turned the tide.
"A little doubt crept in when I looked over at the scoreboard," he said. "But my coaches tell me that I have a pace like no other; that I need to apply my pressure and my pace to make things happen."
He did. Cornella still trailed by five with 40 seconds to go, but notched a takedown, two turns, and a step out to overcome the deficit and come away with an 12-10 victory to knot the series at one apiece.
Going into the third and decisive match, Cornella liked where he stood.
"I felt really confident at that point," he said. "I knew how I had to wrestle and what kind of match he didn't want to wrestle. It was a matter of implementing the game plan and it worked out."
That led to a controlled 4-1 win and a spot on Team USA for the Junior World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Since securing the position, Cornella competed at one other event - the Junior Pan American Championships in Mexico, where he dominated his way to a gold medal.
"I've been competing at least once a month since last November, and Pan Ams was the tournament for July," he said. "I think it was a good tune up for Worlds - it's important to get in reps of making weight, preparing, and feeling good stepping on the mat. My goal was to get on and off the mat as quickly as possible."
He certainly accomplished that, with none of his matches advancing past the first period. He won two by 10-0 technical fall (over opponents from Peru and Brazil) and captured the gold by pin in less than a minute.
Since that trip to Mexico, Cornella has been getting ready for the best U20 wrestlers the world offers. Instrumental in his preparation is America's 65 kg Senior representative, Yianni Diakomihalis.
"I train with Yianni pretty frequently," Cornella said. "He's my practice partner more often than not. It's great. I think it's a big piece of my recent success. When you're around a guy that good, you're forced to make corrections all the time because no one wants to get beaten up every day. It forces me to be the best wrestler I can be."
Cornella also mentioned that he has "a plethora of amazing partners", including Vito Arujau, Julian Ramirez, Ethan Fernandez, and many more, as well as the coaches in the room, who he said "all offer so much."
While Cornella will be entering Cornell as a freshman in the fall, he spent the past year in Ithaca, where he racked up a 28-7 record in folkstyle at open tournaments at 141 pounds. He won the Edinboro Open and placed at several others, including the Southern Scuffle.
"I think I made some huge gains and got a lot better as the season went on," he said. "I got used to college wrestling - how to get ready for competition, how to peak for competition, and how to feel comfortable and confident when it's time to get on the mat rather than nervous. I saw a bunch of progression that got me ready for this summer."
One of the matches that stood out for Cornella was the title bout at the Edinboro Open when he beat Central Michigan's Drew Marten by fall in 56 seconds after losing to him earlier in the campaign.
"It was proof of my improvement - wrestling the same guy with two drastically different results - the second time being dominant," he said.
The Dyson School of Business student hopes to carry that dominance into his initial year with the Big Red.
"I haven’t done in-person school in quite a while, so I’m excited for that," he said. "And I can't wait to finally strap up in a Cornell singlet and represent the place I decided to spend the next four years. Cornell's the best combination of athletics and academics you can get in D1 wrestling and there's a family culture here I really like. I feel like everyone on the team genuinely cares about each other and the coaches genuinely care about all of us. I felt most at home here in Ithaca and it's been great."
Now, he's focused on being great in Bulgaria, where he will take the mat for Team USA at 65 kg on August 15.
"It was exciting to wrestle in Mexico and I'm really excited to be wrestling internationally again," he said. "It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time."
In addition to those associated with Cornell wrestling and Spartan Combat RTC, Vince Cornella wanted to send a "big thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, including my family, my wrestling club back home (Mile High), and my high school (Monarch High School)."