Chas Tucker '20
The pull of Cornell wrestling remains strong for Chas Tucker '20.
After graduating with a Computer Science degree from the College of Engineering, he landed a job at Cambridge Mobile Telematics in the Boston area. In fact, he said he was referred to the company by former teammate Matthew Russo '18, who works there.
"I was a mobile developer, basically making a library for other developers to use on their apps," he said. "The company's software is used by State Farm, Geico, Progressive, and many more similar companies. It was really cool work, I learned a lot."
Indeed, Tucker was enjoying the job, when he was approached by former wrestling teammate Rami Pellumbi '20, who was looking to fill his Software Engineering team at Zinnia Health.
"Rami told me I should work for Zinnia, but I was happy where I was," Tucker said. "He convinced me to send a resume and talk to Zinnia's CEO [former Cornell wrestler Taek-Geun Kwon '96]. I talked to Taek for almost two hours. He's awesome and we come from the same mindset. As I learned more about Zinnia and saw what Rami was doing, I was convinced that I wanted to be a part of it."
In June, Tucker joined Zinnia, where he is the mobile developer, leading his own project, but he looks forward to teaming up with Pellumbi and Michael Russo '20 soon.
"It’s a lot of fun. We can be blunt with each other and we just work well together already,” Tucker said. “We know we’ll all work really hard and put in the extra hours if need be. Both Taek and Coach [Mike] Grey like to talk about getting 1% better every day. I feel like the culture here is similar - attack every day trying to improve. I've grown a lot since I've been here."
The interactions among Cornell wrestling alumni aren't limited to the workplace.
"I've wrestled in the Harvard room with the Cornell guys, including Milik Dawkins '20, and some other college wrestlers," Tucker said. "It's a fun way to stay in shape."
He also has been passing on his knowledge at Doughboy Wrestling Club.
"That was my first wrestling club; I was one of the first members when I was a kid," Tucker said. "Some of the wrestlers I used to train with are now coaching with me. It's the next generation coaching the kids and I'm excited to be a part of it."
That's not the only connection Tucker currently has with wrestling in his home state. He was honored when he was invited to be on the Board of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Massachusetts chapter.
"It's awesome to be involved," he said. "I know I can't ever step away from wrestling."
Tucker had incredible success in the sport with the Big Red despite a delayed start. He began his time in Ithaca with two medical redshirt years in which he didn't compete due to shoulder and wrist injuries.
But once he got on the mat at 133 pounds, he made an impact with a 82-18 record, two EIWA championships, three NCAA qualifications, and an NWCA First Team All-American finish.
Tucker made the EIWA finals for the third straight time in his senior campaign and defeated Nick Farro of Lehigh to improve to 31-0 for the season.
"I remember that match was really fun," he said. "After I got my hand raised, I took a second to appreciate everyone there watching, the people who came to support me. That was really cool. It was the first time I did that - I usually just ran off the mat after wins. I thought at the time that I had five more matches left in my career, but that's not the way it turned out."
Indeed, the NCAA tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19 and Tucker, the #3 seed, didn't get another opportunity to compete at Nationals. He was, however, named to the NWCA All-America First Team.
"We started hearing rumbles about Covid a week after EIWAs," he said. "I was so laser-focused, I wasn't really thinking about it. I really wanted to bring a title back to Cornell, for everyone who put so much work into me there, as well as at Blair, and growing up before high school. But unforeseen things happen. You have to move on. My life wasn't over, just my wrestling career. It was time for my 'real' career to start. I found success on the mat, and now I needed to find success in the real world. Cornell prepared me for that."
"The work ethic - I kind of had it before, but it was really reinforced in college," he said. "It may sound weird, but Cornell taught me how to learn and get better at things quickly. In the Engineering school, you need to pick things up fast and in a detail-oriented way. I also learned how to become obsessed with something so that you become great. That's the mindset I'm trying to have now with my coding and my job. I was around so many amazing people at Cornell and I learned from all of them."
He's around some of them on a daily basis at Zinnia and plans to see more, beginning with a reunion of former teammates at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas this December.
"Cornell is the best place you can go if you want to excel in wrestling and create a future for yourself. The alumni network is the best you can ask for," he said. "The guys and the culture are amazing and it's only getting better. The team hangs out together. It's a family; a big old happy friend group. You work hard together and then joke around together. And the coaches are amazing. When you have that many great people all reaching for the same high-level goals, it's fantastic. That's Cornell wrestling.”
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