In a year where Cornell wrestling (12-3, 5-0 Ivy) has dominated Ivy League competition, it got another taste of power five play when it traveled to Madison to take on No. 8 Wisconsin (12-2, 6-2 Big Ten). The Red had been riding a nine-game win streak, and it was looking to reach double digits to upset the Badgers as it closed out the regular season. In a back-and-forth clash which saw multiple comebacks from Cornell, it was bonus points which gave Wisconsin a slight edge, as it took the match, 19-16.
The Red entered this past weekend ranked 11th in the country. Cornell has remained at No. 11 for weeks despite its extended winning streak, as the majority of its wins came against EIWA schools. The top 10 consist solely of teams from the ACC, Big 12 and Big 10 conferences. With a Big 10 opponent on the docket in Wisconsin, the Red had a prime opportunity to face a more competitive opponent.
“I thought it was a good test – we achieved what we wanted to with that [Wisconsin] dual,” said Head Coach Mike Grey ’11. “It caused a raise in intensity – they wrestle a grinding style, so it was good for our guys to feel that leading into the conference tournament and NCAA tournament.”
Dueling in a tough road environment, the match did not start off in favor of Cornell. The Badgers came out of the gate hot, winning the first two bouts at 133 and 141 pounds to take a 7-0 lead. On Wisconsin’s senior night, the intensity level was high in Madison, Wisconsin from these wins.
“It was a good atmosphere for them,” Grey said. “And I think that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking to put our guys in a high stress situation so they’re ready for the conference tournament.”
The Red did not allow the match to slip away from it early, as junior phenom Yianni Diakomihalis returned to the starting lineup after his day off against Binghamton. The No. 1 wrestler at 149 pounds cruised to a 12-6 victory over No. 6 Austin Gomez. Diakomihalis closes the regular season with an undefeated dual record, and a current streak of 66 consecutive wins, only 11 away from tying Kyle Dake ’13.
In his final regular season match for the Red, senior Hunter Richard finished strong at 157 pounds, winning his bout 10-6 to bring Cornell to within one in the overall score. Nevertheless, the Badgers would close the door as quickly as it opened, ripping off two wins of its own, including a win by fall at 165 pounds, to widen its lead to 16-6.
However, once again, the Red refused to be put away so easily. Junior Jonathan Loew and sophomore Jacob Cardenas continued their reliability at the upper weight classes. Loew, ranked 13th at 184 pounds, won convincingly, 9-4, to bring Cornell closer. No. 18 Cardenas at 197 pounds had the closest match of the night, finding a way to win in sudden 3-1 victory with a takedown.
The Red was also able to secure a win in the marquee matchup of the night, which pitted No. 3 sophomore Vito Arujau against No. 6 Eric Barnett. Arujau was in total control from the start, taking an early lead and growing it into a major decision victory, 13-3.
Despite these clutch bout wins, the Red dropped the heavyweight matchup, 6-2. Ultimately, this proved to make the difference in the overall score, as the Badgers improved to 12-2 with this win, while Cornell’s win streak finally ended, and it fell to 12-3 on the season.
The Red will have two weeks to regroup and prepare for the EIWA championships, which it will be hosting on March 5-6 in Newman Arena.
“We’re going to train differently this week,” Grey said. “We’ll do some things differently with our volume and our rest. That’s one thing we’ve always done well here – we peak our guys well – and I’m confident that we’ll continue that trend.”