Coming off of a victory in its home opener against Stanford (1-2), wrestling went on the road for the first time last weekend looking to build momentum. The team traveled across the country to Las Vegas, where it competed in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, featuring many of the top wrestlers from colleges around the United States.
The Red competed in all 10 weight classes, sending out the same starting lineup it did against Stanford. In its first tournament of the season, the team had varying degrees of success, finishing seventh overall with 81 points. Four of Cornell’s 10 wrestlers were able to reach the podium, with one first place finish, two third place finishes and a fourth place finish.
The highlight of the Red’s time in Las Vegas was once again junior Yianni Diakomihalis. Entering the tournament as a two-time national champion and the No. 1 ranked wrestler at the 149 pound weight class, expectations for Diakomihalis were high. The junior phenom came into the tournament with a 1-0 record on the season, having defeated Stanford’s All-American Jaden Abas 3-1. Diakomihalis rose to the occasion, winning his first four competitions en route to the final round.
In the championship battle, Diakomihalis faced off against No. 2 ranked Sammy Sasso of Ohio State in what was the most anticipated title match of the day. However, the junior Buckeye was unable to keep up with Diakomihalis, as a takedown and two reversals secured Diakomihalis’ second title at the Cliff Keen Invitational by a score of 7-2. Diakomihalis became only the fifth Cornell wrestler to win multiple championships at Cliff Keen, and has defeated four ranked opponents in his 6-0 start.
Head Coach Mike Grey has been very satisfied with Diakomihalis’ development so far.
“He’s just coming along nicely,” Grey said. “He’s back wrestling folkstyle and just doing a good job. He’s getting better too because he hasn’t wrestled the college style of wrestling in a few years.”
Though Diakomihalis was the only Cornell wrestler to take home a title, other members of the team had solid showings at the tournament. Freshman Chris Foca took home third place at the 174 pound weight class, as did sophomore Jonathan Loew at 184 pounds.
After a dominant first round victory, Foca, who entered play ranked eighth in the country, was upset in the second round by Cal Poly’s Adam Kemp. Despite suffering an early loss in his first collegiate tournament, Foca continued to battle his way through the consolation bracket, winning his final six matches, including a revenge win against Kemp in the consolation final, to secure third place.
Loew went 4-1 in the tournament, losing in the semifinal to Taylor Venz of Nebraska before rebounding to win the consolation final and the third place bout.
Freshman Julian Ramirez also had a solid debut in his first tournament with the Red, finishing in fourth place at 165 pounds. Ramirez traveled to Las Vegas following what will likely end up as the upset of the season, when he defeated No. 1 ranked defending champion Shane Griffith of Stanford.
Now ranked 17th overall in the country, Ramirez built on his impressive start, going 4-2 at Cliff Keen. His sole losses both came at the hands of ninth ranked Carson Karchia of Ohio State, first in the quarterfinal and then in the third place match. However, Ramirez was able to notch two more victories against ranked opponents as he continues to show promise early in his Cornell career.
Grey was not overly concerned with the team’s placement at Cliff Keen, focusing more on having his players improve with time and practice.
“We had a really young team and we also didn’t bring three starters to the tournament,” Grey said. “The biggest thing for me with areas we can improve upon is experience. I think the more events we compete in and the more experience our young kids get throughout the season — they’re gonna be better for it.”
The Red will have a couple weeks off following Cliff Keen before going on the road again to compete in Destin, Florida, on Dec. 20. Those duals will serve as a major test for the Red, as it first takes on No. 17 ranked Northern Iowa (0-0) before going up against No. 2 ranked Penn State (3-0). However, preparation for those matches may look somewhat different with finals looming.
“Obviously we have exams coming up so it’s a bit of a balancing act of making sure our student athletes are ready for their exams but also getting great training,” Grey said. “Something that’s nice is we switched our practice time to the middle of the day as opposed to training around five or 4:30 or so. So we train in the middle of the day and then they can study and take care of what they need to.”