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Cornell's Wyatt Knust.

Wyatt Knust Rediscovers Edge, Reclaims Cornell's Starting Goalie Gig

April 12, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Rich Barnes

As Wyatt Knust made stop after stop — the last four of them in overtime — in Cornell’s rollicking 18-17 defeat of Syracuse, it was plenty clear the Big Red goalie’s time had come.


The junior collected nine saves after entering at halftime against the Orange, in the process reclaiming a starting goalie job he had lost earlier in the season with a shaky first quarter against Penn State.

“That’s why you come to Cornell, that’s why you dream of being a Division I lacrosse player, to be in that moment against Syracuse,” Knust said this week. “I just tried to give it everything I had, and I knew if we kept getting the ball back down to our offense, CJ [Kirst] would put it in the back of the net eventually, and he did.”

And things got better for Knust and the Big Red (7-3) just four days later. He made 24 saves in a 14-8 defeat of Brown, matching the most saves in a game for an Ivy League goalie since at least 2003.

The back-to-back showings constituted two of the three biggest highlights of Knust’s career in Ithaca. The other came his freshman year, when he stepped in after a quarter for Chayse Ierlan in another midweek game against Syracuse and the Big Red rallied for an overtime goal.

Mostly, though, he watched the last two years, learning plenty from Ierlan while also getting into a handful of blowouts both seasons. With Ierlan not permitted to stick around for a fifth season because of Ivy League rules (he transferred to Johns Hopkins), Knust earned the starting job.

When he was pulled March 9 at Penn State after giving up six goals in less than 14 minutes, his save percentage sat at .485. At that point, it was Matthew Tully’s job.

“Obviously, I wasn’t excited when that moment came,” Knust said. “I’ve been in that situation before, and I’ve learned a lot in those two years behind Chayse. He taught me a lot. I just knew if I kept bringing it every single day in practice that this team would need me again, whether that was in-game or not. I just felt I was ready to step up when my number was called.”

Not that it was easy.

“I would say the hardest challenge was bringing the same mentality to practice that I had when I was the starter and keeping that same mentality in practice when I’m not the starter anymore,” Knust said. “Honestly, it took me a couple of days probably to get adjusted, but I realized I want to help the team and be the best teammate I can and support Matty when he’s in there. I feel like that ended up helping me play better in practice and the coaches trusted me to give me another chance.”

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That stood out to Cornell coach Connor Buczek, whose team bounced back from what became a 20-9 loss to Penn State with victories over Princeton and Yale to open Ivy League play. The Big Red dropped an 11-10 decision in double overtime to Penn, then had the quick turnaround with Syracuse making the short trip for a midweek game.

Much like the game against the Orange two years ago, Knust came in with Big Red well behind. This time, though, Buczek gave him a heads up with a few minutes left in the first half he would be going in. That gave him time to prepare a little as the second quarter concluded, then get in a full warmup going into the second half.

The first priority was to not let things get worse, and an increasingly settled defense in front of him helped. Syracuse did stretch out a 14-10 halftime lead to six by the middle of the third quarter, but Knust and the Big Red then kept the Orange scoreless for nearly 22 minutes as Cornell rallied.

“He stayed ready and was competitive and heard the things we thought he needed to work on and improved there,” Buczek said. “Obviously, when we needed him again, he was ready to go.”

But the week was only getting started. Making his first start in nearly a month, Knust made 16 saves in the first half to keep Cornell in it before its offense flickered to life and delivered 11 goals after the break to pull away.

“If you watch the tape, a lot of those Brown shots were low-angle, kind of forced shots and it’s my job to save those, and our defense stepped up huge in that game,” Knust said.

Knust is the latest high-profile player to emerge from Florida. The Tampa product is the son of a former Gettysburg lacrosse player and found the sport before he got into his middle school years. (“He kind of let me know that baseball probably wasn’t going to be my future, even though I’d just made the 9-year-old all-star team,” Knust said wryly of his father Andrew. “He wasn’t very high on my baseball hopes and kind of let me know lacrosse would be a better option.”)

It gave Wyatt Knust time to develop enough ability to earn a place at one of the country’s top programs, as well as forge enough resilience to wait for his turn to come. Twice.

“That position in particular is a mental game,” Buczek said. “To fight your way back and recognize some of the things you want to do better when things start to fall back your way and the mindset that it takes to go and be successful in the cage, I think he has that. He’s a competitor and a great goalie, and I don’t think anything major has changed, but I think his outlook on it and his fire to go in there every day and make it a great day whether it’s practice or a game really sets him apart.”

SINCE 2003

24: Wyatt Knust, Cornell vs. Brown (2024)
24: Connor Theriault, Brown vs. Cornell (2022)
23: Bryan Moore, Harvard vs. Albany (2015)
23: Fergus Campbell, Darmouth vs. Cornell (2010)
22: Connor Theriault, Brown vs. Villanova (2023)
22: Jared Paquette, Yale vs. UMass (2023)
22: Reed Junkin, Penn vs. Yale (2019)
22: Kyle Mullin, Harvard vs. Providence (2019)