Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Senior Chris Foca wrestles against Columbia in the Friedman Wrestling Center on Feb. 2, 2024.

February 9, 2024

Wrestling Steamrolls Columbia in Conference Showdown

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No. 8 Wrestling (8-3, 3-1 EIWA) continued its dominance over Ivy League opposition last weekend in a home dual-meet victory over a struggling Columbia (2-8, 1-3 EIWA). Finishing with a 32-9 final score, the meet highlighted Cornell’s overwhelming dominance as they overcame a few surprising upsets from the Lions. 

The meet began at 125 pounds, with sophomore No. 14 Brett Ungar handily controlling the match as he ground out a 6-2 win. Senior No. 2 Vito Arujau followed suit at 133, calmly avoiding wild attacks from his opponent before slowing the match down and establishing control, earning a 17-2 technical fall early in the third period. 

At 141 pounds, promising freshman Mark Botello stepped in for unavailable sophomore No. 12 Vince Cornella and faced off against Kai Owen of Columbia. After a tense first round, Botello fell behind and was unable to score on a number of late attacks as he eventually lost 5-0. 

Making up for the loss, Cornell’s next three wrestlers responded with explosive wins. At 149 pounds, sophomore No. 23 Ethan Fernandez came out of the gates on the offensive, bringing his opponent down four seconds into the match and taking a comfortable 19-6 major decision. Freshman No. 6 Meyer Shapiro and Junior No. 4 Julian Ramirez followed with 17-2 technical falls, extending the Red’s lead and proving the team’s prowess in the middle of the lineup.

In the following two matches, Columbia struck back, winning on the backs of strong performances by the only two ranked wrestlers in their lineup. At 174 pounds, senior Benny Baker fell 8-5 in a match characterized by contentious refereeing decisions, with head coach Mike Grey ’11 throwing the challenge brick twice in the first period but losing on both occasions.

At 184 pounds, the normally reliable senior No. 7 Chris Foca looked exhausted, succumbing to a late takedown and losing 4-0. It has been a more difficult season than usual for Foca as he navigates the shift up in weight from the 174 pound division. In the 2022-23 season, Foca boasted a 93.75 percent winning percentage at 174 pounds, while this year the veteran has dropped to an 81.3 percent win-rate at the higher weight class. 

As is often the case, the Red finished strong with senior No. 7 Jacob Cardenas, who was honored during the intermission for his recent bronze medal in the freestyle division of the U23 Wrestling World Championships. Cardenas won 14-6 at 197, before senior No. 17 Lewis Fernandes triumphed via a first round pin at heavyweight. 

Although certainly a comprehensive win, the meet was far from perfect for Cornell and highlighted a few potential weak points they may need to iron out before nationals. The Red is confident, however, that its overall ability and strong mentality will prevail as it heads towards the postseason. 

“We just need to continue to trust in ourselves, our coaches and our program,” Cornella said. “We always know we have the potential to go with any team in the country.”

Cornell hits the road for an Ivy doubleheader next weekend, traveling to Princeton, New Jersey on Friday, Feb. 9 at 7:30 p.m. to take on the Tigers (5-3, 2-2 EIWA), before facing No. 18 Pennsylvania (4-4, 3-1 EIWA) in Philadelphia on Saturday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.