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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    2023-24 InterMat's Year-End EIWA Awards

    The 2023-24 season is in the record books, but before moving on, it’s time to salute the top performers in each conference. We've already hit on the Big 12 and MAC; so now we're onto the EIWA. 

    EIWA Wrestler of the Year - Vito Arujau (Cornell)

    It certainly wasn’t the same path as the 2022-23 season for Vito Arujau, but when the smoke cleared, Arujau was standing on the top of the podium at 133 lbs, just like the previous season. Arujau blew through the competition last season, then carried that momentum into the US Open, Final X, and the World Championships - all freestyle events he won last spring/summer. 

    When Arujau returned to the collegiate circuit, he was rudely greeted by Lehigh freshman Ryan Crookham at WrangleMania. After that loss, Arujau was out of competition for over a month. He returned for the Collegiate Duals and posted a solid 4-0 win over Little Rock freshman Nasir Bailey. In retrospect, that was a very legitimate victory as Bailey went on to place fourth in the nation. 

    Throughout the remainder of the regular season, Arujau was still trying to get right from his lingering injury and was used as needed and carried a 10-1 record into the EIWA Championships. At EIWA’s, Arujau posted three wins to make the finals and didn’t appear to be all the way “back,” to his normal self. He’d drop another match to Crookham in the finals, 10-6. 

    The losses to Crookham and lack of a regular season resume pushed Arujau down to the sixth seed in Kansas City. Quickly, we saw that the seed didn’t mean much to him and he was much closer to the Vito we’ve come to know (and perhaps fear). 

    Arujau started his tournament with a major decision over his first two opponents, then notched another over the third seed and ACC champion Kai Orine (NC State), a returning All-American. That set the stage for round three in the Arujau/Crookham rivalry. Arujau showed he was in totally different shape than even two weeks earlier and majored Crookham to the tune of 13-3. 

    Arujau won title number two in a matchup against Daton Fix that will likely be remembered for its many delays for reviews/challenges/bloodtime. Ultimately, those delays didn’t derail or deter Arujau as he prevailed 5-3. 

    The final collegiate stats for Arujau are four All-American honors (4,3,1,1), two EIWA championships, a pair of NCAA titles and a 93-9 career record. 

    Honorable Mention: Ryan Crookham (Lehigh)


    EIWA Freshman of the Year - Ryan Crookham (Lehigh)

    From reading Arujau’s portion of the awards, you probably know a little bit about Crookham already. The three-time Pennsylvania state champion chose to stay close to home and enrolled at Lehigh. Crookham had a solid 8-1 redshirt season with a pair of wins over national qualifiers; however, there was nothing to indicate that he’d jump in and immediately become a title threat at 133 lbs. 

    In fact, there was some debate over who would be Lehigh’s starter at the weight. The Mountain Hawks also returned Connor McGonagle, who was injured in the 2023 postseason, but spent time ranked in the top-five nationally. 

    Before meeting Arujau at WrangleMania, Crookham edged McGonagle in sudden victory. The Crookham had the win that turned the college wrestling world on its collective heads. A few weeks later, after downing returning All-American and Big Ten runner-up, Aaron Nagao (Penn State), Crookham assumed the number one ranking nationally. Late in the regular season, Crookham also posted a win over past EIWA champion Michael Colaiocco (Penn). 

    Despite an undefeated record and a second win over Arujau at the EIWA Championship, Crookham was given the second seed at nationals, behind Fix. After losing to Arujau in the semifinals, Crookham rebounded to take third place. Along the way, he defeated Big 12 runner-up Evan Frost (Iowa State) and had his second victory over Bailey to claim third. 

    With both NCAA finalists out of eligibility, Crookham likely starts the 2024-25 campaign number one in the nation at 133 lbs after his stellar 24-1 freshman season. 

    Honorable Mention: Meyer Shapiro (Cornell)


    EIWA Coach of the Year - Kevin Ward (Army West Point)

    The Army West Point wrestling team finished the regular season with a 7-4 record and was ranked 25th in the nation in InterMat’s dual rankings. After starting the year 1-3, the Black Knights finished the season winning six of seven duals. Perhaps the most significant win during that final push came against rival Navy in the Midshipmen’s home gym. It was the first win for Army in the Star Match since 2020, but the sixth total under head coach Kevin Ward. Overall, Army has only defeated Navy 11 times in 68 attempts. 

    At the EIWA Championships, Ward’s team finished third with 95.5 points behind six national qualifiers. The last time Army West Point finished third in the EIWA was in 2021, the year that did not involve any Ivy League schools. 

    Of the six national qualifiers for Army, three were freshmen which is believed to be the most in school history. One of them, Braden Basile, notched a pair of wins over higher-seeded opponents, at 133 lbs. 

    Like the EIWA Championships, Army was led by 174 lbs Ben Pasiuk in Kansas City. Pasiuk was an EIWA runner-up and got on the NCAA podium - finishing eighth. He needed to win a 9-8 shootout over a red-hot Jared Simma (Northern Iowa) in the bloodround. 

    Pasiuk’s finish made him the first NCAA All-American during Ward’s tenure at West Point and the program’s first since Matt Kyler in 2008. 

    While Pasiuk will graduate this year, the Black Knights will return four of their six national qualifiers for the 2024-25 season. 

    Honorable Mention: Mike Grey (Cornell)


    Previous Award Winners

    EIWA Wrestler of the Year 

    2023: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)

    2022: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)


    EIWA Freshman of the Year

    2023: Vince Cornella (Cornell)

    2022: CJ Composto (Penn)


    EIWA Coach of the Year

    2023: Mike Grey (Cornell)

    2022: Chris Ayres (Princeton)

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    Next year should be interesting with the Ivy’s having their own conference. The 2023 EIWA tournament was their last competition in the EIWA. THE EIWA will be much smaller with 11 teams instead of 17 this year. 

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