The Friedman Center was in high spirits this past Saturday for wrestling’s home finale against Binghamton (7-10, 5-2 EIWA). While the primary goal of each match is to take home a win, Saturday meant more for the Red. The bout was coupled with Senior Day, where the team’s outgoing class was honored with a ceremony to celebrate their contributions to the team over the past four years.
Cornell’s current seniors were sophomores when all in-person activities were shut down due to COVID-19, and they faced disruptions in two of their four seasons of collegiate play. Saturday provided an opportunity for many of them to compete on their home mat one last time in front of friends and family.
“It was awesome to be able to do our senior celebration before the match and then also get as many seniors as possible the opportunity to compete,” said Head Coach Mike Grey ’11. “It’s a special day for sure. I think it’s more than the wrestling – it’s having a celebration for the seniors and thanking them for their years of service.”
Riding an eight-game win streak into this past weekend, No. 11 Cornell (12-2, 5-0 Ivy) sought to finish its home campaign undefeated and earn a win for its seniors. In keeping with the theme of the night, Grey did not play his traditional starting lineup, opting instead to saturate the weight classes with seniors. Other wrestlers who do not always start also had an opportunity, including freshman Greg Diakomihalis (125 pounds), who kicked off Cornell’s night with a 13-9 win by decision.
Diakomihalis’ victory would be the start of a dominant first half for the Red, which won its first five bouts to take a 20-0 lead. Three seniors had their final home matches in the first half, including Dom LaJoie (133), who won 5-2, Mike Venosa (149), who won 4-2 and No. 24 Hunter Richard (157), who went out with a convincing 20-4 tech fall win.
Three more seniors made their last showings at the Friedman Center in the second half: Jake Brindley (165), Andrew Berreyesa (174) and Brendan Furman (285). While the Red finished 2-3 in the back half of the contest, wins from No. 13 junior Jonathan Loew (184) and No. 19 sophomore Jacob Cardenas (197), coupled with a commanding halftime lead, were more than enough for Cornell to cruise to a 28-12 victory. The Red improved its win streak to nine games, finishing its home schedule with a perfect 7-0. The team was also able to rest a number of its starters, which could prove crucial heading into the postseason.
“It was great to give our guys an opportunity to rest – I think Yianni [Diakomihalis] hasn’t had a match off all year,” Grey said. “It was a great weekend because it gave guys rest but also allowed for seniors to wrestle. Really it’s a positive weekend, and I think a weekend we can look back upon as a great experience for our seniors.”
As the playoffs loom, the Red hits the road one last time to close out the regular season. The team will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to take on No. 8 Wisconsin at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The match will provide a major test heading into the postseason, as it is Cornell’s fourth matchup against a Power Five conference team.
“We’ll have a full squad in – when I had the schedule, I knew I wanted to add a super tough opponent in at the end to ramp us back up for the conference tournament and the national tournament,” Grey said. “In wrestling, the Big Ten teams are traditionally hard-nosed, tough, physical teams, and that’s exactly what we want for our team to square off against as we get ready for the postseason.”