By Betsy Veysman
Nick Arujau is back to the state where he made a name for himself on the wrestling mat. After also considering Penn, the Syosset native will join the Cornell squad on Jan 23, as second semester classes begin.
The three-time state champion registered a 23-8 record as a true freshman at American University during the 2010-11 campaign at 125 pounds, but decided to make a move from the Washington, DC based school.
“I didn’t really fit in there very well,” he said. “I thought it was time for a change. I really wanted an Ivy League education along with a great wrestling program. After my official visit, I knew Cornell was where I wanted to be.”
Although his debut in a Big Red singlet won’t be for a few weeks, he has been preparing for quite some time. He moved to Ithaca in August and has trained with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club while taking classes at a local college. He has spent considerable time working out with 2009 NCAA champion Troy Nickerson and four-year Big Red starter Corey Manson while also being coached by three-time All-American Mack Lewnes.
“They have really been helping me out, fixing my mistakes,” Arujau said. “One of the big differences between last year and this year is the one-on-one attention I’ve been getting.“
According to Arujau, this attention has helped him improve in other ways as well.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve picked up this year is discipline,” he said. “I follow my diet better and I’m just more disciplined in general. I also lift hard, which isn’t something I did a lot of in the past.“
Torn ligaments in his fingers kept him out of the first few tournaments of the season, but he made a strong debut at the Nittany Lion Open in December, taking second place at 133 pounds behind Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter, the nation’s 3rd ranked grappler. During his run in State College, Arujau went 4-1.
“It was good to get on the mat again,” he said. “I was kind of nervous wrestling at 133 for the first time because I wasn’t sure if I was big enough for the weight. But I went out hard and it worked out in the end.”
This past weekend, Arujau earned fifth place at one of college wrestling’s most challenging in-season events, the Southern Scuffle. After pinning #19 Garrett Drucker in the second round, Arujua lost a 12-10 battle to eventual champion Chris Dardanes of Minnesota in a match he led early.
“I was upset at myself for losing the big lead I had going into the second period in the semifinals,” he said. “But it’s a plus in a way because I now know that I need to work more on my conditioning. I gave up a bunch of stalling points. I’m hoping to learn from it and move on to improve.”
Arujau finished the tournament strong in the fifth place bout with a decision over #20 Aaron Kalil of Navy.
“Overall I thought it was a great experience for me,” he said. “I felt great at 133. I was actually under weight on both days.”
Now, Arujau must wait for the start of the second semester to get his opportunity to join the five-time defending EIWA champions. Joe Stanzione manned the 133 spot for the Big Red in the opening season dual against Minnesota but has since moved up to 141 pounds. Freshman Nik Pena has taken the starting role and has recorded a 9-7 mark in his rookie year. Arujau is excited for his opportunity, at whatever weight is needed.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m really excited for a chance to wrestle for Cornell. I think I made the perfect decision. I’ve already made vast improvements in my wrestling and I’m going to get an Ivy education. In my eyes, there’s nothing better.”