Vito Arujau of Syosset will be one of two New York representatives in the Team USA lineup at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic on Saturday, along with Louie DePrez of Hilton (182 pounds). The event pits the top senior at each weight in Pennsylvania against a superstar from around the country. New York Wrestling News caught up with Vito to discuss the upcoming event, his senior season, some recruiting rumors and his future.
New York Wrestling News (NYWN): What was your reaction to being selected for Team USA for the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic?
Vito Arujau (VA): It was really an honor to be recognized as one of the best in the country. I’m really proud to represent the USA team. My brother (Nick) was chosen to be on the state team (New York) a few years ago, and it’s really fulfilling to be part of such a talented group.
NYWN: You’ll be facing 2x PA state champ Brian Courtney at 132 pounds. Tell me about your experience with him.
VA: I’ve known Brian for years. Any time I go up to Yianni’s house [Yianni Diakomihalis], he’s usually there. We’ve wrestled multiple times in competitions — I believe twice at Super 32 and at a fundraiser for Pinning Down Autism last year.
NYWN: How have those matches gone?
VA: I’ve won them, but Brian’s obviously very good competition. He’s a very skilled wrestler. I’m just happy to be back in the competition phase. After the state tournament, there was some down time and I’m excited to get started again.
NYWN: Speaking of the state tournament, you won your fourth New York State title about a month ago and left your shoes on that mat afterwards. How was your last high school season different from previous ones?
VA: It was more sentimental. I thought about things more … how it was the last time I’d be competing in high school. Leaving your shoes on the mat is done a lot more on the international circuit when people retire from wrestling. I thought it was a nice little symbol of leaving behind my high school days and starting something new. It helped me remember all the hard fought matches I had on that mat.
NYWN: What is the most memorable match you had in high school?
VA: The most impactful match I’ve ever had in my high school career was my state finals match vs Yianni in eighth grade. It helped set the way for everything that came after. If not for that [Arujau lost in the ultimate tiebreaker], I never would’ve touched base with Yianni and we might not have become training partners. I owe a lot of my success to that one match even though I lost. Now I’m happy to be a four-time state champ and to be part of a small group that accomplished that.
NYWN: What are your plans for next year?
VA: I’m going to do a year at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club. Right now, I would be a 133 pounder, but hopefully after a year of lifting and preparing in Ithaca, I will be able to go at 141 for Cornell the next year.
NYWN: I have to ask, there are some rumors that you're considering Penn State. Is that true?
VA: No. The rumors are all lies actually. I’m totally dedicated to the Cornell team. I could see where people get the idea that recruits want to go to Penn State … it’s a huge accomplishment to have five titles. But with the guys we have coming in, I think we can do the same thing in a few years at Cornell.
NYWN: What’s next for you after the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic?
VA: I’ve already switched gears to freestyle. I started right after the state tournament. I like folkstyle, but I love freestyle; it’s where my heart is. I’m getting ready for the Junior World Team Trials and I can’t wait.