2023-24 Cornell Wrestling

Cornell Wrestling Tuning Up For Postseason

Cornell Wrestling Tuning Up For Postseason

Cornell stepped outside of EIWA competition during a weekend road trip to North Carolina and now the Big Red is putting final touches on postseason prep.

Feb 22, 2024 by Brian Reinhardt
Cornell Wrestling Tuning Up For Postseason

With all the conference tournaments and then NCAA Championships right around the corner for college wrestling teams, Cornell decided to step out of EIWA action for the first time since early January, and went to North Carolina for a pair of non-conference duals last weekend.

In a top-10 battle that was closer than the final score, #9 Cornell fell at #8 NC State 24-9, but two days later the Big Red came away with a dominating 36-6 win at Appalachian State, winning eight bouts against a team that is ranked #24 this week (both Cornell losses that dual were by backups).

“I thought it was good, in the sense we were able to test ourselves,” Cornell head coach Mike Grey said. “Obviously, we came out on the wrong end of it (versus NC State), but at this point now all our matches are getting us prepared for March. Us having the foresight to know that trip was going to help us for the postseason was really important. 

“It was good for us to see some areas we still need to work on this late for that final push.”

One weight class the results stood out for Grey was at 174 pounds and Benny Baker. With 2023 All-American Chris Foca moving up to 184 pounds once the season started, Cornell had to fill his spot at 174 pounds.

Baker has been the starter the majority of the season, but his 8-4 decision over #31 Alex Faison of NC State and 13-7 win over App State’s Luke Uliano made him the postseason choice at the one open weight in the Cornell lineup. 

“Benny Baker got an awesome win and solidified himself as our guy (at 174 pounds),” Grey said. “He got a ranked win and then beat the App State kid, who he lost to earlier. He has another opportunity this weekend against Binghamton for a win, which would put him on a three-match winning streak going into conference.”

Cornell Hosts Binghamton on Senior Day to Close Out the Dual Season

The dual season will wrap up Sunday with the Big Red hosting Binghamton for Senior Day. The Bearcats have won three straight duals, and six of the last seven dating back to mid-January. The lone loss was a 22-11 setback to Army.

“Binghamton is on a tear right now, they are wrestling really well,” Grey said. “The strength of their team is a bunch of ranked guys from 165 up to heavyweight.”

Cornell will also be celebrating Senior Day, one last chance for those Big Red wrestlers who are moving on to wrestle in front of the home crowd.

“We are going to try to get as many seniors as possible this weekend,” Grey said. “We know we must perform well, and ultimately do what we need to do to get the job done for the dual as well. If we have the ability to get more seniors in, we will, but first and foremost, we have to make sure we secure the victory.”

A trio of Cornell starters will be wrapping up their Big Red careers come March.

Returning national champion Vito Arujau is out of eligibility. Jacob Cardenas will be graduating and transferring to another school for his final year of eligibility. Lewis Fernandes has one year left as well but has already secured a job and will be moving right into his professional career. Those three are all ranked among the top-20 in their weight class this week, Arujau and Cardenas in the top-10.

Cardenas and Fernandes were in the same recruiting class, along with current ranked teammates Julian Ramirez (#4 at 165 pounds) and Foca (#11 at 184 pounds). The Class of 2019 recruiting class that Cornell brought in was ranked #3 nationally, and all four of those current starters were top-75 recruits, including three in the top-25.

“I was fortunate to have those guys and that class be freshmen when I took over,” Grey said. “They really helped the program move through the transition. They remained loyal to Cornell, which is something I will always be appreciative of. They believed in my vision and believed in this program, and for that I’ll always be grateful for them and what they have done for this program and for me personally.”

One of those to be recognized this weekend for his final season, but will not wrestle against Binghamton, is Arujau.

“He wanted to wrestle that weekend against Princeton and Penn, and did a nice job,” Grey said. “He has his eight matches and the winning percentage, so he will qualify the weight for the conference.”

But Cornell will welcome back one starter who has missed action recently, Vince Cornella, ranked #10 at 141 pounds. Cornella has been out of action the last five duals, last competing when he scored a ranked win over Missouri on Jan. 28.

“Cornella will wrestle against Binghamton,” Grey said. “He is good to go, and we look forward to having him back out there.”

Eyes Towards March

While Cornell has a big dual against conference rival Binghamton this Sunday, the focus in the room is to bring home more trophies come March. That first opportunity will be March 8-9 at the EIWA Championships.

“For us, we pride ourselves in our ability to have our guys peaking (for March),” Grey said. “We’ve had some busy weeks, so we are happy with the amount of training that we will be able to have leading up to the conference championship. We are training hard this week getting ready for Binghamton, and we will have some tough training days next week and then be able to taper that down for the EIWAs.

“Not pulling off the gas completely is part of our formula to continue to keep our guys close to the fire that is something we like to do at Cornell. I think that has shown through our results in March over the last few years.