2023-24 Cornell Wrestling

Lewis Fernandes Back After Injury-Shortened '23 Season | Big Red Insider

Lewis Fernandes Back After Injury-Shortened '23 Season | Big Red Insider

After being limited to seven matches last season, Cornell heavyweight Lewis Fernandes returned to the Big Red lineup last weekend.

Nov 17, 2023 by Brian Reinhardt
Lewis Fernandes Back After Injury-Shortened '23 Season | Big Red Insider

Cornell officially kicked off the 2022-23 season this past weekend, staying in-state and competing at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic. A large contingent of 23 wrestlers were in action for the Big Red, highlighted by performances from starters Brett Ungar (125 pounds), Meyer Shapiro (157), and Julian Ramirez (165). The trio went a combined 9-0, and each won his respective bracket

Don’t Call it a Comeback, (He’s) Been Here for Years

Playing off LL Cool J’s 1990 hit, Cornell heavyweight Lewis Fernandes is one of the country’s top returning heavyweights, but many college wrestling fans might not be as familiar with his work.

Fernandes’ first season on campus was the 2020-21 season, which saw Cornell cancel that season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When he finally was able to step on the mat for the 2021-22 season, he was the EIWA runner-up and at the 2022 NCAA Championships, Fernandes entered as the #18 seed and went 3-2. He finished one win shy of All-American honors in his first NCAAs, as his Round of 12 bout ended by takedown in OT.

Last season he set out to reach even greater heights, but his season was cut short in early January.

Fernandes was limited to just seven matches last season. His last match of the season was a narrow 4-2 loss to returning 2022 NCAA finalist Cohlton Schultz of Arizona State on Jan. 4. He missed the final three months of the season, including the postseason.

He and the coaches decided it was best for him to shut it down and fix some long-term lingering issues. As it turned out, Fernandes was suffering from a torn hip labrum and a misshapen femoral head that was eating away at the cartilage inside his hip bone.

“It happened over time,” the New Jersey native said. “We were trying to push through it and see how far into the season I could go with it. But it got to the point where I really couldn’t put in the amount of practice time needed. It was really hindering me. I wasn’t benefitting and the team was benefiting. 

“It got bad, even affecting how I walked. That is when we decided to get the surgery and take the time to get healthy so I could better help the team moving forward.”

The surgery kept Fernandes out of the practice room for months. He was out until July, but at that time he was in New York City doing an internship at D.E. Shaw.

“I wasn’t able to get back out onto the mat until the middle of August,” said Fernandes. “But I was able to prepare my body by being in the gym and doing agility while working my way back.”

Fernades made his return to the mat last weekend in the team’s opening competition at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic. He got three matches in that day, going 2-1 in the pool format.

“It felt awesome to be back out on the mat,”  Fernandes said. “It was a really good experience to get back out there and compete. It was great to be with my team again, to get to travel and be with my brothers is something I missed.”

Now back on the mat full-time, Fernandes looks forward to a ‘normal year’ of both competition and in the practice room going up against some of the best wrestlers in college wrestling who just happen to be his teammates.

“We have tweaked a couple of things coming off last season, but our mindset and attitudes are pretty much the same along with our intensity in the room,” Fernandes said. “A lot of guys are pushing each other. We have a lot of new, young guys which is exciting to see. 

“The coaches have been great with us, they are pushing us to our best capabilities while making sure our bodies are staying healthy. You must trust your training and push yourself in practice. That is something that has really given me confidence this year to perform to the best of my ability.”

Fernandes is viewed as one of the most athletic heavyweights in college wrestling. He plans to stay around 245 pounds this season. He played football and lacrosse growing up but committed himself to wrestling full-time once in high school.

Having two older brothers play sports at the college level — Mike was a wrestler at D3 Roger Williams and his other brother Scott played FCS football at Lafayette College — the youngest Fernandes brother only could assume where his athletic ability came from.

“Maybe genetics?” Fernandes joked. “I really don’t know, it just kind of fell that way in my favor. I do think lifting weights and eating right are two of the main keys to staying athletic when you are big.”

When you talk about recent athletic heavyweights, two-time national champion Nick Gwiazdowski fits that bill.

When Mike Grey took over the helm of the Cornell program after the 2021 season, he made the call to the N.Y. native Gwiazdowski about not only coming up to Ithaca to continue his own training, but to be involved with the program as the volunteer coach.

Gwiazdowski now enters his third season at Cornell and has seen the progression of Fernandes.

“He has always been a great athlete, and he has a feel for athletic positions,” Gwiazdowski said. “We’ve been working on techniques and positions that will translate into points at the NCAAs, and he has been very receptive to the coaching he receives. 

“With his work ethic, I see no reason his training will not result in success on the national stage come March.”

Fernandes was quick to point out the impact of training with a two-time World medalist has had, and the lessons he has learned from Gwiazdowski off the mat as well.

“Gwiz has been a world-changer for me,” Fernandes said. “Getting beaten up every day in the room might sound rough, but it is something you are grateful for to have one of the best guys in the country pushing you. He might not always tell you how exactly you must do it, but he gives me the reins to do it your way and that is something that I have been very grateful for. 

“He is not just a wrestling mentor, but also a life mentor making sure I do the right thing.”

With only one season of eligibility left after this current season, Fernandes has his goals clearly set.

“First and foremost, I want to help this team win a national championship,” Fernandes said. “Team comes first, and if everybody does their individual goals then the team will succeed. Individually, I want to be an All-American and perform to the best of my ability to be able to help this team. 

“At the end of the day, you will not look back at your career and be disappointed if you know you worked your hardest and competed to the best of your ability while putting your whole heart into it.”

Another Recruiting Haul

Few teams in the country have been as hot on the recruiting trail as Cornell has been recently. With the fall signing period underway, Cornell’s 2024 recruiting class was recently ranked seventh nationally by FloWrestling. The Big Red signed a pair of top-50 upper weights (#22 Louie Cerchio and #33 Cash Henderson) and five recruits in the top 100 overall.

Cornell has now signed a top-10 recruiting class in five out of the last six years: fourth in 2023 class, fifth in both 2021 and 2020, and third in 2019.

And the news keeps getting better out of Ithaca. It is very early in the announcements of the 2025 cycle, but Cornell has already received verbal commitments from not only two of the top recruits in New Jersey, but two of the top high school juniors in the country, #4 Anthony Knox and #30 Alessio Perentin. 

Up Next

Cornell will compete in its first dual of the season this weekend, as the Big Red host Sacred Heart on Saturday at noon.