As senior No. 8 Jacob Cardenas rose from the mat following his meet-clinching victory on Sunday, Jan. 28, the crowd’s unified roar of approval commemorated not only an undefeated weekend, but also the fact that No. 9 Cornell wrestling (7-3, 2-1 EIWA) was back on track. Following three recent losses against ranked opponents, the Red entered a tough weekend slate and took down Harvard (3-3, 0-2 EIWA), Brown (1-4, 0-2 EIWA) and No. 2 Missouri (8-1, 4-0 Big 12) across two grueling days of wrestling.
In the opening meet of the weekend, Cornell was dominant as it dispatched Harvard. Junior Greg Diakomihalis kicked off the meet with an impressive major-decision victory over a ranked opponent before senior No. 2 Vito Arujau made his highly anticipated return from injury. Arujau didn’t miss a beat, earning a 13-5 major decision. The rest of the team followed his lead, recording two pins, two technical falls and two more major decisions to take the duel 37-6.
The match against Brown saw further Cornell dominance, as the Red demolished its opponents across the board. Cardenas and senior No. 8 Chris Foca were particularly impressive as Cornell wrestlers won every individual match, recording three pins and four technical falls to score an awe-inspiring 47 points. Brown were deducted a point for unsportsmanlike conduct, leading to a bizarre final score of 47 to -1 and confirming an Ivy sweep for the Red.
The main event of the weekend was Sunday’s meet against Missouri. The Tigers were undefeated heading into the contest, boasting multiple ranked wins and a strong lineup that included six wrestlers ranked inside the top 10 at their respective weights. Following a stretch of tough losses in recent weeks, the Red was certainly the underdog but has a history of pulling off upsets in front of its rowdy home crowd.
The match kicked off at 125 pounds, where the Tigers jumped off to a 6-0 lead following a first round pin by No. 7 Noah Surtin. Arujau struck back at 133, completing a third round comeback to win 10-9 and causing a particularly raucous crowd in Newman Arena to erupt. Cardenas emphasized the energy that the home fans exerted on the match.
“The home crowd is the best part,” Cardenas said. “I think our team truly feeds off of support, and it’s great to feel people behind us.”
Riding on the momentum created by Arujau, Cornell rattled off a streak of victories. Sophomore No. 13 Vince Cornella and junior No. 28 Ethan Fernandez, who have been two of the Red’s most improved wrestlers this season, took resilient decision victories, bringing the score to 9-6. That set the stage for a marquee matchup between freshman No. 12 Meyer Shapiro and No. 5 Brock Mauller. This time, it was Shapiro who did the mauling, as he dominated the three-time All-American, taking a 13-4 victory in which Mauller scored all his points on escapes. This result gave the unpredictable and athletic Shapiro another win against a top opponent on a resumé that is already impressive for a freshman.
At 165 pounds, Missouri struck back as two-time national champion No. 1 Keegan O’Toole defeated junior No. 2 Julian Ramirez in a highly anticipated clash. After an admirable performance by sophomore Evan Canoyer, who held No. 6 Peyton Mocco to only a decision victory, the duel moved into the final three matches with Cornell holding a tenuous 13-11 advantage. With each team fielding a highly ranked competitor at each of the three heaviest weight classes, the contest was hanging in the balance.
Beginning at 184, Foca faced off against No. 11 Clayton Whitling. Foca has struggled thus far, after being forced to move up from his preferred 174-pound class due to injuries in the roster. He had no trouble with Whitling, though, breezing through to a 14-1 major decision. Next up was Cardenas, who faced No. 3 Rocky Elam, another three-time All-American with an undefeated record. A win by Cardenas would clinch the meet for the Red.
After a cagey first round, Cardenas dominated the second, escaping and taking down Elam via a signature blast double. A resilient defensive performance in the third saw Cardenas come out on top, clinching the match 4-0 and the meet for the Red. Following a Cornell loss at heavyweight, the meet ended 20-16 in the Red’s favor, a truly exceptional win. In what has been a lukewarm Cornell Wrestling season thus far, Cardenas considered the weekend proof of the team’s true quality.
“We definitely don’t like some of our losses, but we all know how good we are,” said Cardenas, who was recently awarded EIWA Wrestler of the Week honors on Monday. “We just had to let it click and make it happen.”
Cornell next takes to the mat on Friday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. for an Ivy League dual meet against Columbia (1-7, 0-2 EIWA). The match will take place at Friedman Wrestling Center.