Recently, the 19th-ranked Cornell wrestling team traveled down to Florida to take part in the South Beach Duals. The Big Red took part in five dual meets in two days and came away with a 4-1 record, including a 19-18 win over nationally ranked Missouri. In two of those meets, the final and deciding match was won by sophomore heavyweight Brendan Furman.
Furman went 2-2 for the weekend, but those two victories came when the weight of the meet was on his shoulders. The confidence necessary to perform in a pressure situation as he did has been building within him throughout the season.
“My coaches have been telling me all year to trust in my training,” Furman said. “At first, in the early duals and against NC State, I didn’t really have that confidence going out there. But I’ve been kicking my training into high gear the past few weeks. That’s allowed me to open up and take more shots and be more aggressive in the first and third period without getting tired.”
Furman plans on keeping up with that intense training and “living the good life on and off the mat” to help continue that success throughout the season. As for the early season issues, mental lapses were getting the best of the Pennsylvania native.
“I’m learning a lot as I’m going,” Furman said. “In the early matches, I ‘found ways to lose.’ In three of my losses, I lost in the last 30 seconds. It started to sting really bad.“
With the heartbreaking losses weighing him down, Furman reached out for advice from the experienced Big Red coaching staff that includes Lansing native and world champion Kyle Dake.
“I asked my coaches for help,” Furman said. “They said, ‘You know what you need to do. You need to work harder in the room. You need to wrestle harder. You need to focus on what you need to do to get better.’ So, I started training a lot harder.”
The late losses still have an effect on Furman, but he’s been improving his ability to quell his nerves under pressure, as shown at the South Beach duals.
“You just can’t think too hard about it,” Furman said. “In a lot of my matches where I lost in the last 30 seconds, I would go crazy for the first minute or two, then I would get tired. It would bite me because I would get really really tired. In my mind, I was just focused on winning the match, then I would find a way to lose the match. But instead, down in Florida, I would wrestle and wouldn’t care about getting the first takedown. If I got taken down, it didn’t matter. I’d just pop right back up.”
Narrowing his focus from trying to win to simply accumulating points led to his deciding victory against nationally-ranked Missouri, in which he needed to win by a large margin to complete a come-from-behind team victory. In his career, Furman’s confidence was at an all-time high when he was wrestling at Canon-McMillan High School in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. There, he was an All-American and a state champion. Making the transition from being the leader of the pack to being an underclassman on a nationally ranked Division I program has been a challenge for Furman.
“With those years in high school comes the confidence and the skill to just beat guys,” Furman said. “I had the Pennsylvania record for fastest pin in just six seconds. I just went out there, literally just snapped him down, and it was done. It’s crazy because you go from that to going 9-3 and losing duals in the last 30 seconds. In Ohio State, I was up a point and lost a dual in the last 2.6 seconds. It’s a tough transition mentally, but I do plan on getting back to that style of wrestling where I’m just going out there and killing it.”
With this being an Olympic year, several key members of the Cornell squad have been redshirted to pursue a spot on the U.S. roster in Tokyo, Japan, this summer. Currently, national champion Yianni Diakomihalis and Vito Arujau are still in the running.
With four top-tier wrestlers set to return next year, Max Dean and Andrew Berreyesa being the others, Furman expects the Big Red to be in the running for a national title next season. For now, the redshirts have still been around the program.
“I’m extremely excited [for them to return],” Furman said. “They’re still around the team a lot. They’re leaders in the wrestling room. They still wrestle with us on our RTC (Regional Training Center) days. But wrestling with them in the matches will just be phenomenal. Wrestling with your friends who are also these extremely high-level athletes, it will be super awesome.”
Moving forward, Brendan Furman will be looking to build upon his strong performance at the South Beach Duals, holding a record of 13-8 this season. He split his matches over the weekend, falling to nationally ninth-ranked Jordan Wood of Lehigh, and shutting out Columbia’s Danny Conley 7-0.
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