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Athlete of the Week is Syosset’s Vito Arujau

Vito Arujau of Syosset poses for a portrait

Vito Arujau of Syosset poses for a portrait during the Newsday wrestling season preview photo shoot at company headquarters on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Credit: James Escher

Syosset wrestler Vito Arujau adds a little more to his legend every time he steps on the mat. The senior grappler is arguably the top wrestler to ever come from the Nassau area. He is a combination of strength, speed and agility. He is a master technician with precise timing in the circle supported by his three state championships and 208-1 career record.

Arujau is looking to win an unprecedented fifth Nassau championship this weekend. His first bout in the Nassau tournament will come in the round of 16 in the 138-pound weight class on Saturday afternoon at Hofstra.

He has won a Long Island record 166 consecutive bouts after breaking the record of 163 set by Shoreham-Wading River’s Jesse Jantzen from 1996-2000.

“He’s not a paper champ and continues to improve ever year,” Syosset coach Mike Murtha said. “Some people rest on their laurels but not Vito. He goes to double practices and focuses on his strengths and weaknesses. He’s a relentless competitor.”

Arujau is 29-0 this season and the top ranked wrestler at 138 pounds. For his accomplishments, Arujau is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

“I’m well rested and in shape,” said Arujau, who will attend Cornell in the fall. “I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks of competition. And I’m excited about the postseason because I can get back into my freestyle training.”

The three-time defending state champion is looking to become Long Island’s third four-time state winner and first from Nassau.

“He sat out a few tournaments this season because he wrestles all year and needed some rest,” Murtha said. “We’ve kept him at the top of his game. He has some big-time tournaments coming up.”

Arujau was also selected to wrestle for Team USA at the Annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic (formerly known as the Dapper Dan), the most prestigious high school wrestling event of the year. He was the only Long Island wrestler chosen.

“The selection is a great honor to be recognized as one of the best wrestlers in the country in such a prestigious event,” Arujau said. “It’s a showcase of the top wrestlers in the country. Team USA will wrestle Team Pennsylvania.”

Arujau is the third Nassau wrestler to compete for Team USA since the event’s inception in 1975. Bob Bury of Merrick was chosen in 1978 and Al Palacio of Long Beach in 1982. The last Suffolk wrestler to compete for Team USA was Ward Melville’s Nick Piccininni in 2015. He was a four-time state champion and now wrestles for Oklahoma State.

“There have been a lot of great wrestlers from Long Island,” Murtha said. “And it’s hard to compare them. But this kid is real special. He wants to be an Olympian.”

Arujau’s only loss in his high school career came as an eighth-grader in the state final. He lost in the ultimate tiebreaker, the third overtime, to Hilton’s Yianni Diakomihalis, a four-time state champion, who finished his career with a 256-3 record and a state record 201 wins in a row.

“We’ll be teammates at Cornell,” Arujau said. “How about that?”

Arujau wants to represent the United States at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

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