After more than three months of tournaments and dual matches, wrestling had its first taste of postseason action when it hosted the 118th Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships this past weekend in Newman Arena. With an opportunity for multiple grapplers to qualify for nationals, this weekend was a chance for the Red to cement itself once again as one of the premier wrestling programs in the nation. Rising to the occasion, Cornell finished in first place at the EIWA Championships, with six qualifiers for the NCAA tournament.
Setting the standard with his dominant play was the top ranked wrestler in the country at 149 pounds, junior Yianni Diakomihalis. Entering the EIWA Championships, Diakomihalis had not dropped a match on the season, going a perfect 19-0. The Red’s star grappler was seeking his third EIWA title, as well as the top spot heading into nationals.
Diakomihalis took care of business, cruising through the competition with a 20-2 tech fall win, a 12-2 major decision, a victory by injury forfeit and, finally, a statement 11-2 major decision over No. 2 seeded Anthony Artalona of Penn. He officially qualified for nationals and could enter the competition as the No. 1 seed.
Another standout performance came from sophomore Vito Arujau at 125 pounds. Competing in his first EIWA Championship, Arujau entered as the No. 2 seed. While each match was crucial to Arujau’s success, the eventual championship bout was one that provided a shot at redemption. After cruising through the first three rounds with two wins by fall and one by major decision, Arujau matched up against No. 1 seed Patrick Glory of Princeton.
Arujau had previously wrestled against Glory when Cornell beat Princeton on Feb. 5, losing narrowly, 11-9. With an opportunity to flip the script on the biggest stage, Arujau did not back down: securing a statement victory on a 19-6 major decision. Arujau was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler, and will look to finish the year strong as one of the top seeds at nationals.
“I’ve been saying for a while that we needed the best version of Vito on the mat, and that was what you saw [this weekend],” said Head Coach Mike Grey ’11.
Junior Jonathan Loew, wrestling at 184 pounds, was the Red’s third title winner of the weekend.
Loew, ranked 13th in the country, entered the EIWA Championships as the No. 1 seed. With an NCAA berth on the line, Loew did not disappoint. He blew through the competition, with a 16 point lead differential over his last three matches. Loew leads Cornell with 26 wins this year.
“He’s wrestling with a lot of self confidence and a lot of self belief which is great to see,” Grey said. “He’s put the work in and he’s starting to reap the benefits, and that’s great to see as a coach.”
Cornell had three other grapplers qualify for nationals. Sophomore Lewis Fernandes, at 285 pounds, had a strong showing in his EIWA Championship debut. Fernandes had two fall wins en route to a finals appearance, where he lost a tight battle to Lehigh’s Jordan Wood. Freshman Julian Ramirez, who had already clinched an NCAA bid during the regular season, finished in fourth at 165 pounds. Sophomore Jacob Cardenas finished in fifth at 197 pounds to lock up a trip to nationals.
The Red will hope to gain a few more at-large bids before heading to nationals. Leading contenders include senior Dom Lajoje, who finished third at 133 pounds, senior Hunter Richard, finishing sixth at 157 pounds and sophomore Chris Foca, who finished sixth at 174 pounds.
Cornell will enter nationals as a top 10 program, with an opportunity to face off against the best in the country. Those who qualify will travel to Detroit for the three-day NCAA Championship from Thursday, March 17 to Saturday, March 19.
“Overall, I thought it was a great exercise for our team,” Grey said. “Hopefully we learned a lot about ourselves leading into the national championships.”