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Grappler Gold

Bearcat Open Recap: Cornell Wins 5 Titles, Including Impressive Debuts for Diakomihalis, Dean and Russo

By BV, 11/13/17, 12:00PM EST


Womack, Chavez Win for Big Red; Columbia's Ryan, Scheidel Prevail

Over 300 wrestlers took the mat at the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open on Sunday.   Cornell came away with five championships, including three by wrestlers competing for the first time for the Big Red (Yianni Diakomihalis, Max Dean and Mike Russo), as well as another who hadn't been on the mat for the squad in a while (Jon Jay Chavez). In addition, All-American Brandon Womack was victorious.

Two Columbia wrestlers earned top honors - Garrett Ryan at heavyweight and Markus Scheidel (back with the Lions second semester) at 157. 

Host Binghamton saw 10 wrestlers place, with three finalists - Anthony DePrez, Louie DePrez and Connor Calkins

Full brackets are available on

Read on for more on each weight.



Please note: The wrestlers who lost semifinals matches automatically competed for third; those who lost before the semifinals could wrestle back for fifth. Seventh place matches were not wrestled.

125 Pounds:

Michael Russo wasn't planning on going 125 pounds for Cornell until a few weeks ago. He was the Big Red's only entry in the lightest weight class on Sunday and he dominated his way to the title in his Big Red debut. 

"I found out a few weeks ago," Russo said of the opportunity to go 125. "I've just been managing my weight. I wasn't too sure if I was going to wrestle in this tournament or not. I've just been doing a lot of cardio and I was like, 'I can make it', so if I make it, I'm wrestling." 

Russo began with a 3-0 shutout victory over Sean Badua of Army West Point and followed with another blanking, this time 7-0 over EIWA placer Steven Bulzomi of Binghamton. In the semis, he started with a huge six point move in the first in a 9-2 win against Ohio's Mario Guillen before again getting off to a strong start in the finals - pinning Nolan Hellickson of Harvard in less than a minute.

"I just wanted to go out there and get the job done," Russo said. "A lot of times when guys get in on my legs, I'm pretty comfortable there, so as soon as I felt a little position change [in the finals], that's when I hit my move."  


3rd Place - Mario Guillen of Ohio

4th Place - Kyle Akins of Buffalo

5th Place - Audey Ashkar of Binghamton

6th Place - Joe Nelson of Binghamton

8th Place - Donald Keeley of Brown

8th Place - Dan Planta of Penn

133 Pounds:

After capturing the Brockport Open in his college debut, Vito Arujau of Finger Lakes Wrestling Club picked up three bonus point wins - a pin, a tech fall and a major decision - on his way to second on Sunday.  Trackwrestling originally listed Arujau as the champ at the weight -- and some in attendance agreed -- as he appeared to have the winning near fall points in the third period in what was a 6-5 victory for Ohio's Cameron Kelly (a wrestler who was seeded at the NCAA tournament last year).  Kelly impressed on his way to the finals with two pins, a tech fall and a major.


3rd Place - Ezekiel Salvo of Brown

4th Place - Derek Spann of Buffalo

5th Place - Dominic Giannangeli of Penn State

6th Place - Giovanni Ghione of Penn

8th Place - Noah Baughman of Cornell Unattached

8th Place - Charles Tucker of Cornell Unattached

141 Pounds

Yianni Diakomihalis has been attending this tournament for years, cheering from the stands.  It was his turn to get on the mat this weekend, and he gave the fans plenty to cheer about as he dominated his way to the title.

"Since my friends Vincent and Anthony DePrez were freshmen in college, I've been coming here watching the Cornell guys and watching my friends wrestle," Diakomihalis said. "It's always the first tournament of the year, how you know NCAA wrestling is here, for me at least. Competing here made me finally feel like a college wrestler."

He started with a pair of technical falls and a pin before meeting with highly touted Nick Lee of Penn State. Diakomihalis jumped out to an early lead and left no doubt in a 12-7 win.  

"He was definitely a blue chipper out of high school -- I think he was #1 in the country when he graduated and he's really tough; he wrestles super hard," Diakomihalis said of Lee. "I knew coming in if I was gonna win that match I had to establish the lead and just grit it out; be tough. He was a really high level opponent and he was gonna go out and just fight me.  That was a good test of my will." 

Diakomihalis controlled the finals bout with Harvard's AJ Jaffe from beginning to end in a 13-4 major.

"It's exciting because I've been a Cornell fan for so long and now I'm here, I'm one of the guys people watch. I've waited a really long time to wrestle in college and this weekend was the rubber meeting the road - you're here now and you have to wrestle hard."


3rd Place - Nick Lee of Penn State

4th Place - Dane Heberlein of Binghamton

5th Place - Joseph Russ of Binghamton

6th Place - Alec Hagan of Ohio

8th Place - Taylor Brown of Army

8th Place - Jake Lizak of Penn

149 Pounds

Like Diakomihalis, Jarod Verkleeren of Penn State was a Cadet Freestyle World champion.  In his first college action, Verkleeren collected five wins, including two technical falls, on the way to first place. In the finals, he beat New York's top placer - Columbia's Jacob Macololooy.  Macololooy won five times at the event, including a hard fought overtime triumph over Parker Kropman of Binghamton, a pin, a major and a semifinals victory over Cornell's Jonathan Furnas.


3rd Place - Jonathan Furnas of Cornell Unattached

4th Place - Bo Pipher of Penn State

6th Place - Parker Kropman of Binghamton

6th Place - Chris Schoenherr of Cornell Unattached

157 Pounds

Markus Scheidel wrestled unattached on Sunday and swept four bouts on the way to the top.  He won an entertaining 14-13 contest against Nigel Ruiz of Army West Point in his opener before another one point win, 3-2, against Brock Wilson of Harvard. He then pinned Alex Smythe of Buffalo before an 8-3 win over Justin Staudenmeyer of Brown in the finals in a clash of NCAA qualifiers. Scheidel competed at NCAAs for Columbia in 2014-16 and will be back at Columbia for the second semester, according to head coach Zach Tanelli


3rd Place - Alex Smythe of Buffalo

4th Place - Joseph Galasso of Cornell Unattached

5th Place - Joe Velliquette of Penn

6th Place - Tanner Cook of FLWC

8th Place - Adam Santoro of Cornell Unattached

8th Place - Ben Schneider of Ohio

165 Pounds

Jon Jay Chavez wrestled just one dual match in a Cornell singlet over his first two seasons, while excelling on the Greco Roman circuit.  His return to folkstyle was certainly a successful one, as he captured the Bearcat Open title on Sunday with a number of quality wins.  In fact, he began against a wrestler he has battled in Greco - Mason Manville of Penn State.  Chavez came away with a convincing 6-0 victory.

When asked if he was excited to get a shot at Manville in his opener, Chavez said, "Yes and no. In the first round, I didn't know how I was gonna feel.  After the fact, I was glad I got it over with. It was a little weird, we trained together over the summer in Greco, so hitting him in folkstyle was definitely a change." 

Chavez hadn't wrestled a folkstyle match in quite some time.

"Me and folkstyle have had our ups and downs," Chavez said. "I felt like I needed a break. After a short hiatus, I realized I enjoyed the sport a bit more than I thought I did and with two more years in my college career, I wanted to give it a shot and give my teammates the best shot I've got." 

After beating Manville, next up was Jon Jay's brother, Jaron Chavez, who was representing Finger Lakes Wrestling Club. [Jaron forfeited].

"Family is a special thing," Jon Jay Chavez said. "[Jaron is] my best friend, and I couldn't ask for a better person on my side, so it's such a pleasure having him out here."

Jon Jay Chavez followed with a major over Columbia's Laurence Kosoy and a 5-2 semifinals win over 2017 Round of 12 wrestler May Bethea of Penn.  In the title bout against returning Bearcat Open finalist Vincent DePrez of Binghamton, Chavez trailed 6-3 in the first period. But he hit a big six point move and came away with a 10-9 decision.

"I went down by three in the first, giving up some takedowns," he said. "But the big Greco wrestler in me just kind of kicked in. I got a nice little headlock and then after that I had it figured out and did my thing."

DePrez cruised to the finals with technical falls in his first three matches (combined score of 61-11) before a 4-0 shutout of Cornell's Milik Dawkins in the semifinal round.


3rd Place - May Bethea of Penn

4th Place - Milik Dawkins of Cornell Unattached

5th Place - Jonathan Viruet of Brown

6th Place - Laurence Kosoy of Columbia

8th Place - Sam Williams of Army

8th Place - Jaron Chavez of FLWC


174 Pounds

For the second consecutive year, Cornell's Brandon Womack is a Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open champion.  The 2017 165 pound All-American moved up a weight and was in command throughout the day during his five victories. He recorded a pin and a technical fall and took charge with an immediate takedown and tough ride on his way to a 6-1 win in the title match against Columbia's Tyrel White, a multi-time NCAA qualifier.  White nabbed three bonus victories before beating another wrestler who competed at nationals, Josef Johnson of Harvard, in the semis. 


3rd Place - Josef Johnson of Harvard

4th Place - Luke Hodsden of Army

5th Place - Anthony Lombardo of Binghamton

6th Place - Joseph Terry of Ohio

8th Place - Frank Guida of Bucknell

8th Place - Andrew LaBrie of Brown

184 Pounds

Cornell's Max Dean made the finals at this tournament for the second straight year and this time, earned the title.

"Last year, I was fresh out of high school and I just tried to wrestle hard," Dean said. "I didn't really have a lot of expectations last year, because I was a greyshirt just going out there trying to scrap. It feels good to win an open this year. It's really the same thing - I'm not trying to deal with too many expectations, I just want to listen to my coaches, be a good teammate and go out and wrestle as hard as I can."

Dean earned a first period fall in his opening match and followed with a trio of majors in which he outscored his opponents by a combined 42-6.  His top wrestling was tough throughout the day and that carried over to the finals where a second period rideout propelled him to a 3-2 win over outstanding freshman Louie DePrez of Binghamton.  

"I spent some time this summer working with [former NCAA champ and family friend] Robbie Waller on top. It's nice to see it paying some dividends. I've gotta give some credit to Robbie for that."

He also gave credit to several others.

"My coaches -- I love wrestling for them - Gabe [Dean], Damion [Hahn], Mike [Grey], Coach Koll -- those guys are awesome," Dean said. "Wrestling's a hard sport so it's great to have coaches who make it fun."

Louie DePrez has  now picked up a top two finish at his first two college events. He bested a pair of EIWA placers on Sunday - Kanon Dean of Harvard and Joe Heyob of Penn.


3rd Place - Anthony Mancini of Franklin and Marshall

4th Place - Joe Heyob of Penn

5th Place - Devon Van Cura of Penn State

6th Place - Anthony Pedro of Brown

8th Place - Hunter Yeargan of Ohio

8th Place - Jeff Lombardi of Oswego

197 Pounds

Returning EIWA champ Frank Mattiace of Penn registered three straight pins before a tough semis win over Ben Honis of Cornell. He then defeated another Big Red wrestler - Ben Darmstadt - in the finals. Darmstadt and Honis, who are squaring off for the 197 spot in the lineup, took second and third, respectively. Darmstadt notched two pins, while Honis had four bonus victories. 


3rd Place - Benjamin Honis of Cornell Unattached

4th Place - Shakur Rasheed of Penn State

5th Place - Mark Tracy of Binghamton

6th Place - Alex Hopkins of Army

8th Place - Michael Bulkin of Columbia

8th Place - Joe Doyle of Binghamton

285 Pounds

Two New York wrestlers faced off for the heavyweight crown, with Garrett Ryan of Columbia majoring Binghamton's Connor Calkins, 10-2.  

"Last year we wrestled a really close match," Ryan said. "He shut down most of my offense, so coming into this one I was really focused on finding those openings and continuing to attack throughout the whole match."    

The 2017 EIWA champ, Ryan had two pins, two majors and a 7-1 decision during his run at heavyweight. 

"I've just been training super hard," Ryan said. "We've got the NYCRTC set up in Hoboken, so I had some world class training partners all summer, great coaching and I think just as a team we all came in with the attitude that we weren't gonna rest up this summer. We were gonna work really hard, push ourselves and get better. We definitely put in the hours this summer."

Meanwhile, Calkins grabbed four wins, including over former NCAA qualifier Antonio Pelusi of Franklin & Marshall in the semis. 


3rd Place - Antonio Pelusi of Franklin and Marshall

4th Place - Patrick Garren of Penn

5th Place - Ian Butterbrodt of Brown

6th Place - Angus Cowell of Harvard

8th Place - Nolan Terrance of Buffalo

8th Place - Brendan Furman of FLWC