Wrestling concluded a successful season last week when it traveled to Detroit to compete in the NCAA championships. The Red sent nine wrestlers to nationals, tying a school record for the eighth time. On the biggest stage in the country, Cornell did not disappoint, finishing with three All-Americans and a seventh place team finish.
The Red (12-3, 5-0 Ivy) entered nationals with already an impressive record. Before the NCAA tournament, Cornell finished 10th in the country in the NWCA Coaches poll, and boasted an undefeated conference record, an Ivy title and an EIWA championship win. With strong representation at nationals, the team had one final chance to show off its abilities.
Competing in his third NCAA tournament, junior Yianni Diakomihalis had an opportunity to continue his chase of the Cornell record books. Diakomihalis was riding a 70 match win-streak, and was the two-time defending national champion at 149 pounds. As the No. 1 seed in his weight class once again, expectations could not have been higher.
Despite facing off against some of the most prominent wrestling programs in the country, Diakomihalis never found himself in danger. Diakomihalis tore through North Carolina, Oklahoma, Iowa, Ohio State and Nebraska to claim his third NCAA title. Diakomihalis had a chance to tie Kyle Dake’s ’13 record of four national championships, and was now just two wins behind Dake’s streak of 77 consecutive victories.
“When I’m wrestling like that, it definitely makes me hard to wrestle, so [I] just got to work on doing that every time, keep building, keep getting better, keep getting more dominant,” Diakomihalis said in a post-game interview with ESPN.
Sophomore Vito Arujau also had a successful showing for the Red at 125 pounds. Making his second appearance at nationals, Arujau improved upon his previous performance, moving up from fourth to third place. His main pitfall came against a familiar foe, Princeton’s Patrick Glory, who Arujau previously beat to win the EIWA title. This time it was Glory getting the upper hand with a major decision victory, but Arujau bounced back to win his consolation matches, securing All-American honors and a third place finish.
“I think he just got into a weird position in the semifinals against Glory, a guy he beat up pretty good at the conference tournament, and it just didn’t go his way unfortunately,” said Head Coach Mike Grey ’11. “I know he’s a bit disappointed but eager to have two more opportunities at it, and we are as well as a program to see Vito get over the hump and ultimately become a national champion for us in the future.”
The Red had one more wrestler receive All-American honors, junior Jonathan Loew at 184 pounds. Loew won his first EIWA title prior to nationals, entering the championships as the 11 seed. After winning his first round match, he fell to the six seed after Oregon State. Continuing the fight, Loew battled through the consolation bracket, winning three matches before dropping the consolation semifinal and seventh place match to finish in eighth. Loew led the team with 30 wins on the season.
“I think he’s developed immensely this year and the culmination was this weekend,” Grey said. “He continued to believe in himself all year long and developed great confidence in his skills and his ability to wrestle with the best guys in the country.”
Senior Hunter Richard took the mat for the last time in his career at Cornell. Wrestling at 157 pounds, Richard lost his first round match, but battled back, winning his next three contests before losing his last bout in the third consolation round.
The Red now transitions into offseason mode, looking ahead to the opportunities of next year. Despite this season just ending, the team is already excited and optimistic for what the future holds. With a relatively young team, the Red will return most of its starters, and have another crack at bringing home a national championship.
“We’re excited, we expect to be up there and competing for a national championship with the pieces we have coming back,” Grey said. “If you look at other programs, a lot of them have fifth, sixth year seniors…so if you look at returning points, we’re up there with Penn State, so that’s very exciting and motivating.”