While many Cornellians were enjoying a well deserved winter break, wrestlers had no off days. Following the end of the fall semester, the team traveled down to Niceville, FL, where it competed in three matches.
The Red began with a win against No. 22 University of Northern Iowa (3-5) on Dec. 20, cruising to a 29-7 victory. Later that night, the Red faced off against its highest ranked competition thus far, No. 2 Penn State (13-0), losing narrowly 21-16.
Nevertheless, the Red ended the road trip on a high note, defeating No. 8 Virginia Tech (5-4) in an 18-15 nailbiter. Cornell followed these matches with a 5th place finish in the Southern Scuffle tournament on Jan.1-2, taking a loss at the hands of No. 17 Lehigh (8-5), but beating Army West Point (0-6). As the beginning of the spring semester loomed, the team returned home with a 4-2 record to start Ivy League competition this past Saturday against Harvard and Brown.
Eager to begin Ivy League play with a win, the Red came out of the gate strong against the Crimson. Freshman Greg Diakomihalis, stepping in for sophomore Vito Arujau at 125 pounds, started the contest with a convincing 9-2 win.
Head Coach Mike Grey ’11 was pleased with Diakomihalis, who had struggled early in the season.
“It was great to see Greg get a convincing win and show himself that he continues to progress, which is what we want to see as well,” Grey said. “Greg’s development is steady – he continues to get better, and I think that’s really what he needs to continue to do.”
The Red followed up this performance with another win at 133 pounds, as No. 30 ranked senior Dom LaJoie defeated the Crimson’s Dillon Murphy, 14-5. After a loss at 141 pounds brought the Crimson back into the match, junior Yianni Diakomihalis had the chance to showcase his skills as the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the country. Dominant as ever, Diakomihalis took the 149 pound matchup, 13-3.
The Red strung together three more victories in the 157, 165 and 174 pound weight classes. Senior Hunter Richard had the closest bout of the night, winning at 157 pounds in sudden victory on a takedown.
Freshman star Julian Ramirez followed suit at 165 with a tech fall win, and sophomore Chris Foca upset Harvard’s sole ranked wrestler, No. 29 Joshua Kim, at 174 pounds. After the Crimson won its second round of the day at 184 pounds, sophomore Jacob Cardenas capped off the contest with a tech fall win at 197 pounds. The Red won the heavyweight round in a walkover, giving it a final victory of 35-6.
However, the win was not the end of Cornell’s day, as it faced Brown only 30 minutes after the conclusion of its Harvard match. Nevertheless, Grey was satisfied with his team’s level of endurance.
“Our guys are well conditioned and able to compete back-to-back,” Grey said. “We were able to take what we’re working on in the practice room and put it on the mat, which is always a good sign as well.”
The Red displayed the full force of its roster against the Bears, making the match uncompetitive from start to finish. Both Diakomihalis brothers got pins in their victories, and the Red ran away with the contest, winning by a final of 47-3 – its largest margin of victory in almost two years.
This match also marked Yianni Diakomihalis’ 60th consecutive victory, inching him one closer to Kyle Dake ’13’s school record of 77 consecutive victories set in 2013. However, the win also had ramifications for the entire team, as it rocketed Cornell into first place in the Ivy League with a 2-0 record.
Grey recognized the importance of these two wins to begin Ivy play.
“It gives us lots of confidence, coming off of a bit of a letdown against Lehigh,” Grey said. “I think momentum is a huge factor especially when you’re getting into the heart of the schedule.”
The Red, now 6-2 and ranked 11th in the country, will look to become 3-0 in the Ivy League and 8-2 overall when it hosts conference rival Columbia at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Navy at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Friedman Center.