2023-24 Cornell Wrestling

Key Training Phase In Past, Mizzou Showdown Ahead For Cornell Wrestling

Key Training Phase In Past, Mizzou Showdown Ahead For Cornell Wrestling

NCAA champion Vito Arujau is set to return to the Cornell lineup this weekend as the Big Red gear up for three duals, including a showdown with Missouri.

Jan 25, 2024 by Brian Reinhardt
Key Training Phase In Past, Mizzou Showdown Ahead For Cornell Wrestling

Back in December, Cornell coach Mike Grey said the semester break would be one of the most pivotal times of the season for the Big Red. 

With no school in session for weeks, Grey’s squad could focus on an important training cycle. 

“We made the most of our time from when school ended back in December to this new semester starting recently,” Grey said. “We had some great duals in that time, but we also had some heavy-duty training sessions.”

Having last weekend off from dual action, the Big Red now starts a five-week stretch of duals.

Cornell will begin with a trio of home matches this weekend. The Big Red will first take on Harvard and Brown in back-to-back duals on Saturday.

“We are ready to get back to it, ready to hit the mat in front of the home crowds,” Grey said. “With Harvard and Brown, you always must be ready for those conference matches. It will be good for us, it will allow us to get some guys in there and get some experience. We have to take care of business first on Saturday. 

The college wrestling world will then all be tuning in on Sunday, for one of the top non-conference matchups of the season as #9 Cornell will host #4 Missouri. The dual will take place in Newman Arena, and is expected to draw a big crowd following up on the success of hosting Virginia Tech in the venue back on Jan. 7.

“We will have to be laser-focused on Missouri, making sure we are ready that next day,” Grey said. “There are a lot of great matchups. Yianni (Diakomihalis) will be doing a clinic beforehand, and with some community outreach we are doing as well, we are excited to have so many youth wrestlers for that matchup.

“They have a really solid team, there will be a ton of great matchups. We need to wrestle well, and I believe we are poised to wrestle well.”

The Missouri dual came about as part of a home-and-home series that will see Cornell travel to Columbia next year. Tigers head coach Brian Smith also has ties to Cornell, as he began his coaching career as an assistant at Cornell in 1992 before heading to Missouri.

“I’m really excited for this dual, Missouri is a phenomenal team,” Cornell 165-pounder Julian Ramirez said. “I think our guys have had some ups and downs as a team thus far, so we want to go into this weekend and make a statement. If all our guys are ready, I think it is going to be a heck of a dual.”

Marquee Matchup

After reaching the Round of 12 the last two years at the NCAA Championships, Ramirez has taken that next step and has been one of not only Cornell’s top wrestlers, but in his weight class as well.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of highs this year, but I’ve also had some lows,” Ramirez said. “Even in matches I’ve won, there are times that I haven’t performed to the level that I’ve wanted to. I think I’ve had a good season so far, but there are a lot of improvements that still need done. Now it is fine-tuning things, and improving your conditioning to be able to wrestle as hard as you can.”

Come Sunday, Ramirez will be putting it on the line against one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in all of college wrestling, as #4 Ramirez will take on the 165-pound defending national champion #1 Keegan O’Toole.

“I’m excited for this one,” Ramirez said. “I like the way Keegan wrestles, he has a really good style. I like it when people wrestle back, and I know he is going to go in there and fight for seven minutes. I’m ready for that, I’m excited to go out there and wrestle as hard as I can.”

Throughout this season, Grey has continuously pointed out Ramirez as one of his most consistent wrestlers. While you see those results on the mat, Grey has also said mentality as a leader is where Ramirez has grown the most.

Now heading into another top-ranked battle, Grey is eager to see Ramirez reach the potential he knows he can.

“(Julian) has to be at peace that he is going into a seven-minute war,” Grey said. “He has to be willing to take himself into deep waters and wrestle through some adverse situations, which is what happens when you wrestle a national champion. He did it once against (David) Carr in Las Vegas, so there is no reason why he can’t do it again.”

Ramirez has already done battle with two other highly ranked foes at 165 pounds this year. Back in December in Las Vegas he scored a win over Iowa State’s Carr in the semifinals before falling to Oklahoma State’s Izzak Olejnik in the final, his lone loss of the season.

After Sunday, Ramirez will have faced the current #1, #2 and #3 ranked wrestlers in his weight class.

“You must be buckled up mentality for matchups like this,” Grey said. “Technically, I know Julian has the tools to wrestle with him, and he is very good in those funky positions as well.

“I expect this to be a great bout.”

Ramirez pointed out that from here until March he still has work to do. He has to stay as healthy as he can, and keep managing his weight, in addition to his work on the mat.

“I need to keep focusing on my technique and the areas of my improvement,” he said. “Also, continue to lead as well. Being a leader on this team forces me to make sure I am doing everything I possible can to have 40 guys want to follow me.”

Vito Set to Return

Grey did confirm the return of the reigning 133-pound national champion Vito Arujau to the lineup.

“We do have Vito back, he will be back this weekend,” Grey said. “He is absolutely going to be a big jolt for us.”

Arujau has been limited to just five matches this collegiate season. He last saw action back on December 18 at the National Collegiate Wrestling Duals.

It wasn’t just Grey who will be excited to have Arujau back in a Cornell singlet this weekend, his teammates are also looking forward to having his presence both on the mat and on the sidelines for the rest of the season starting this weekend.

“We are going to have Vito back this weekend, so that is going to be great for our team morale,” Ramirez said.

Other Cornell-Missouri Top Matchups

With a combined 18 ranked wrestlers, the Cornell-Missouri dual will feature many great bouts.

157: #14 Meyer Shapiro vs. #5 three-time All-American Brock Mauller

“Meyer is ready for this bout, he is excited for this matchup,” Grey said. “He just continues to progress as the season goes along. He is finding ways to win. Sometimes it’s pretty and sometimes it’s not, but I love seeing that grit out of him. 

“That will be a fun matchup. Mauller is very seasoned. I think it’s fun to see what is the present with what is the future at this weight.”

197: #9 Jacob Cardenas vs. #6 three-time All-American Rocky Elam

285: #20 Lewis Fernandes vs. #6 2023 All-American Zach Elam

“For Cardenas, Rocky is tough and proven as he has done a heck of a job at his time at Missouri,” Grey said. “I think we just need to be ready to face a top guy like that. 

“Fernandes did a nice job against a top-10 guys at Lehigh, he just lost on scramble. I expect him to follow suit to that bout. Elam is a different wrestler. He is much taller than guys Lewis has wrestled this year, and Lewis is a tall heavyweight as well. I think there is a fun style clash there, hopefully we see some weird and funky positions that you see them really mix it up.” 

One bout still up in the air will be at 125 pounds, where Missouri’s #4 Noah Surtin awaits. For Cornell, both #15 Brett Ungar and Greg Diakomihalis will weigh-in, then a decision will be made who gets the nod.