Syosset’s Vito Arujau led by one over Russia’s Abasgadzhi Magomedov with 17 seconds left in the final round.
Arujau knew all he had to do during the final seconds was stand in the middle of the mat and hand fight with Magomedov to secure the 10-9 win at the World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, last Sunday.
Time expired. The room opened up beyond the mat for Arujau as he pointed to the roaring U.S. fan section and took a bow. Arujau, 24, was the 61 kg freestyle world champion.
“I’m not sure it’s quite fully set in yet, the implications of what it really means now that I’m [a] world champ,” Arujau said. “... I think I just made myself [the] number one target in the world.”
Arujau has had quite the 2023.
He won the folkstyle 133-pound NCAA national title for Cornell in March. The next month, he won the 61kg freestyle gold medal at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, putting him in both Final X and the Pan American Games. He won gold at the Pan American Games, his second at the event, in Argentina in May and beat Nahshon Garrett at Final X in Newark in June to earn a spot on Team USA for the world championships.
At worlds, Arujau won five matches in two days to win the gold – three in the morning session on the first day, the semifinal that night and the final the night later.
“I was ready to go out there and win it, and at the same time, I was ready to take on the title and all the things that come with it,” Arujau said. “So just because it's new and I've never done this before, [it] doesn't mean I'm not ready for whatever's to come.”
Arujau is a second-generation world champion. His father, Vougar Oroudjov, won two 48 kg freestyle gold medals – one in 1991 representing the Soviet Union in Varna, Bulgaria, and one in 1995 representing Russia in Atlanta. Oroudjov also won a bronze medal for the Unified Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
“It’s a legacy. We both work hard for this,” Oroudjov said. “As a dad, every wrestler wants his kid to wrestle. He’s just so happy he wrestled. But later on, you see he wanted more. But it’s [a] good connection. I’m very happy for him.”
Arujau called his father a role model and the best wrestler he had ever met as he was growing up. Oroudjov’s accomplishments have molded Arujau’s ultimate goal of winning two world championships and an Olympic medal, perhaps one-upping his father with a gold or silver.
“As a child you're always told to set unobtainable goals, so that was my goal when I was wrestling when I was little,” Arujau said. “So it's definitely very cool to see that I'm getting closer, and it is realistic and it is obtainable. And within the next couple of years, I will have it.”
Arujau, who graduated from Syosset High School in 2017, started at the varsity level as an eighth grader. He went 216-1 in five seasons, including a 173-match win streak to end his high school career, and won four state titles. He will finish his collegiate career at Cornell this upcoming season.
The win at worlds automatically qualified Arujau for the semifinals of April’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials. He will move down to 57 kg and switch permanently from the folkstyle of college wrestling to freestyle, bringing him one step closer to equaling his dad.
“Every parent wanted his kid to be better than him,” Oroudjov said. "I’m wishing he will do it, and I believe he’s gonna do it.”