2023-24 Cornell Wrestling

Cornell Wrestling Looking Forward To Tough Competition, Key Training Phase

Cornell Wrestling Looking Forward To Tough Competition, Key Training Phase

Cornell wrestling is entering a key stretch of competition and training in the weeks ahead.

Dec 13, 2023 by Brian Reinhardt
Cornell Wrestling Looking Forward To Tough Competition, Key Training Phase

The months of December and January can be challenging for many collegiate wrestling programs. Between finals and winter break, a sport like wrestling that spans over multiple semesters can see a disturbance to the normal, daily routine of when classes are in session.

But for a program like Cornell, head coach Mike Grey and his staff look forward to this time of year, expecting his squad to make the biggest leap of the season during this time.

“This is the best time of year for us,” Grey said. “We are in exams until Friday, and some are already done. From Dec. 17 until Jan. 22, we don’t go back to school. This whole time we are just going to wrestle. This is a time for us to make a lot of gains with no school.

“I’m excited for our guys to finish out strong with their exam schedule and then focus on wrestling. We expect to see our level rise quickly.”

Cornell is returning from the Cliff Keen Invite in Las Vegas, its hardest competition thus far this season. The Big Red saw runner-up finishes from Brett Ungar at 125 pounds and Julian Ramirez at 165 pounds. Upperweights Jacob Cardenas (197) and Lewis Fernandes (285) also saw extensive collegiate tournament action for the first time in months.

“We are training hard right now, focusing on making our corrections from Las Vegas,” Grey said. “There are a few overarching themes which we are working on, and we want to make sure we are attacking those areas. 

“We are in a good spot right now, but we have a chance to be even greater with the teams we have coming up on the schedule. We have a bear of a schedule (upcoming), but I’m confident in our staff to get our guys significantly better over these next five weeks.”

Up Next

After a weekend off with no outside competition, Cornell will next compete at the Collegiate Wrestling Duals for the third straight year. In Nashville on Monday, Dec. 18, Cornell will face Little Rock, a Pitt team coming off a win at #7 Ohio State, and #8 Iowa State in a trio of duals. Cornell itself is up to #3 in the latest Flowrestling Dual Rankings. 

“Each team offers a challenge,” Grey said. “Little Rock has some tough guys at some of their weights. With Pitt, it seems their whole team is ranked, we must be ready to compete from top to bottom against those guys. They are talented, and definitely on the rise. Iowa State might be the marquee matchup going last, but we tell our guys they have to be ready whenever they step onto that mat.”

Little Rock has half of its starting lineup ranked right now. Pitt is 3-0 against Big Ten teams this season and coming off an impressive 21-13 win against the Buckeyes this past weekend. Iowa State just claimed the team title at the Cliff Keen and has six wrestlers ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight classes.

“We have to be ready to step on the gas, score points, and be aggressive,” Grey said. “We want to be on that leg first, score first, and score often.”

Vito Set To Return

The Big Red — and all college wrestling fans — are looking forward to the return of 2023 national champion Vito Arujau. He has wrestled only three matches thus far, last appearing in a Big Red singlet back on November 12.

Grey said Arujau will return to Cornell’s lineup at the Collegiate Wrestling Duals.

“Vito will be back, he will be ready to go,” Grey said. “He understands that we are going to require a lot out of him in a sense that he is going to have to go out there and take care of business.”

Arujau is also scheduled to wrestle at Lehigh’s Sheridan Invite (Dec. 22) before Cornell has its duals vs. Ohio State and Virginia Tech during the first weekend of January.

“He will be ready to wrestle hard, and we look forward to seeing him back out there,” Grey said.

The Rubber Match:  #4 Julian Ramirez vs. #2 David Carr

For the second time in a two-week span, and the third time over the calendar year, Julian Ramirez and David Carr will battle it out when Cornell faces Iowa State. Both are currently ranked in the top four in the 165-pound weight class, and each wrestler has notched a victory in the series.

At last year’s Collegiate Wrestling Duals, Carr scored a 10-5 decision. Ramirez reversed that result in Las Vegas two weeks ago at the Cliff Keen Invite, as his takedown with just 24 seconds left was the lone takedown of the bout and gave Ramirez a 4-3 win in the semifinal match.

“That win in Las Vegas gave him confidence, but the one thing that has been great about him as he has gotten older, is he has figured out how to manage his emotions,” Grey said. “Maybe some of the things our younger guys need to work on, Julian has learned, and prevailed through some of those early struggles. He is not going to get too high or too low. 

“That was a good win, but he believes in himself, and he knows he is a tough out if he wrestles well.”

Grey has cited Ramirez as Cornell’s most consistent wrestler since the season started. Each of the last two years he has reached the Round of 12 at the NCAAs, but this season expectations are much higher.

“The biggest improvement that I’ve seen is his calmness out on the mat, his ability to stay laser focused and locked in on the task that is at hand,” Grey said. “He doesn’t let outside noise bother or get to him, and he has stayed task orientated on what techniques he is trying to use in each match. His focus is unmatched compared to where it has been.

“He has showed up every match this year. I think he has done a wonderful job from his first match through Las Vegas. He is wrestling at a really high level.”

Top Recruits Continue to Flood into Ithaca

Cornell’s 2024 recruiting class was recently ranked seventh nationally by FloWrestling. The way things are going, the 2025 class will not only exceed that ranking, but could be the top class in the country when the future Big Red members sign next November.

Cornell has pledges from seven of the top 100 recruits in the 2025 class, including five in the top 50, and three of the top 20 recruits overall.

Of course, Cornell is pulling in some of the best high school recruits from New York and New Jersey (highlighted by #4 overall recruit Anthony Knox), but Cornell has also found a recent pipeline to the west.

Within the past couple of weeks, Cornell received commits for the 2025 class from three top 40 recruits that all come from the west — #12 Sergio Vega from Arizona and twins #16 Isaiah Cortez and #38 Elijah Cortez from California.

“We are a family,” Grey said. “We raise guys up from their grayshirt year, through all the college years, and if they want to wrestle freestyle, they can stay here at our RTC. You look at it, come to Cornell and it can be an eight-to-12-year commit. We are committed to these guys’ futures.

“You also get an Ivy league education. I truly believe there is no school in the country that can offer a better academic prowess along with the athletic prowess that you find at Cornell. You can achieve greatness in both here.”