Pictures by www.phototrens.com
Despite having a stomach virus on the opening day of the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach this weekend, Syosset's Vito Arujau had plenty of reasons to feel good.
The two-time NYS titlewinner not only captured the championship at 126 pounds in the Sophomore division and earned MOW honors, he also took a step toward his future, committing to head coach Rob Koll and the Cornell Big Red.
“I think I always assumed I was going to Cornell,” the honor roll student said. “For a while, I was waiting to see how things played out, but I realized there’s no better choice for me than Cornell. I know the coaches, I know the program, I know the guys and my brother’s there right now. I know it’s a room where with hard work and dedication, you can be a champion.”
Arujau earned a national championship on Sunday, although the weekend got off to a bit of a rocky start as he woke up sick on Friday.
“I had very low energy – I wasn’t feeling good at all,” he said. “It was a stomach flu my younger brother had a few days ago. I tried to drink water and eat, but I couldn’t hold anything down. But I was able to get through the day.”
He didn’t look like he was just “getting through” on the mat. The Nassau star won all three of his bouts by major decision, by a combined score of 39-8.
Arujau said he felt a little better on Saturday and he continued to dominate, winning 18-4 and 12-2 to punch his ticket to the finals against Jaden Enriquez, a Fargo finalist and state tournament runner up in California.
The Section 8 standout got out to a 4-1 lead after a pair of first period takedowns, but was then headlocked to his back for five. Arujau was able to roll through for the reversal, from which Enriquez escaped, making it 7-6 in favor of his foe after an eventful opening period.
Arujau entered the third leading 9-7 after an escape and a takedown, but Enriquez picked up an escape and TD and looked for more.
“He locked up a cradle and I just kept moving, rolling around, looking for a way to score,” Arujau said. “It worked and I ended up on top [with the reversal]. I knew from there I had to ride him out and I did.”
He came away with a 11-10 victory for the title, a rare close bout after just five regular decisions this season in New York (the smallest margin of victory was five points).
When asked about matches in his career that stood out like Sunday’s finals, Arujau pointed to his one and only loss in high school – in the New York State title bout as an eighth grader in the ultimate tiebreaker to Hilton’s Yianni Diakomihalis.
Arujau and Diakomihalis live several hours apart, however, they find ways to train together throughout the year. And they’ll be seeing more of each other in the future.
“Yianni also coming to Cornell was definitely a good thing,” Arujau said of his fellow Big Red commit. “I know I’ll have a great drill partner for all the years of my college career. We sometimes meet in Ithaca [at Finger Lakes Wrestling Club] or in lots of places - he's been down here to Long Island.”
That was the case last weekend, when Diakomihalis joined fellow Hilton wrestlers Louie and Sammy DePrez, Pennsylvania state finalist Brian Courtney as well as many of Long Island’s top wrestlers for a training camp at Vougar's Honors Wrestling (VHW). Some of those wrestlers (such as Diakomihalis, two-time state champ Jacori Teemer and Wyoming Seminary star Jack Mueller) will also team up for a summer camp at VHW.
“It was a really good weekend working out and getting ready,” Arujau said. “I worked with some great wrestlers.”
That’s nothing new for Arujau, who credits much of his success to his training with grapplers like Plainview’s two-time state finalist Peter Pappas and 2015 Nassau champ Alex Vargas of Syosset, as well as his work with his father, Vougar Oroudjov, a world champion and Olympic medalist.
“[Being the son of an accomplished wrestler] isn’t really pressure, it’s more of a tool to help me get better,” he said. “When we wrestle, I get a takedown occasionally and then he just kills me. I’m nowhere near close to beating him yet.”
That isn’t the case very often for Arujau, who is ranked in the top 15 in the nation in the Class of 2017. In the past two seasons in New York, he captured a pair of state championships following undefeated campaigns. He won at 113 pounds as a freshman and at 132 this year – despite not cutting weight.
“I’m probably at about 130 right now,” he said as he was traveling back to New York from Virginia Beach. “My highest point during the season was probably a little less than 134 pounds. It was a pretty challenging weight class and I felt the difference from the year before. I was no longer able to muscle kids – I had to rely on technique and speed to win.”
He’s now ready to transition to freestyle, his favorite wrestling style, with an eye on the FILA Cadet Nationals and Fargo. In his debut in North Dakota last summer, Arujau took third place.
But before hanging up the phone, the conversation went back to folkstyle – and college wrestling.
“[Vito’s brother] Nick loves Cornell,” Vougar Oroudjov said. “You see so many brothers on the Cornell team because it’s a family.”
“I was interested in schools with a high end education and a great wrestling program,” he said. “Cornell is the best fit for me. I want to thank my mom, my dad, my training partners, Syosset wrestling and coach Mike Murtha and my brother, who all helped me to get where I am today. I’m proud to commit to Cornell and be part of the family.”
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