#TeamUSATuesday: Men's Freestyle National Team member Darian Cruz

By Mike Willis, USA Wrestling | Oct. 08, 2019, 4:39 p.m. (ET)

Photo of Darian Cruz by Tony Rotundo/Wrestlers are Warriors


Darian Cruz is currently the No. 3 wrestler at 57 kg/125.5 lbs. for Team USA’s Men’s Freestyle National Team. 

He was a three-time All-American at Lehigh University and was a National champion in 2017. This is his first year on the National Team. Darian took some time out of his schedule to answer some questions for us.

What is your favorite movie?

The Sandlot, it’s a classic.


Who is your favorite musical artist?

J. Cole


What is your favorite food?



What is your favorite sport to watch other than wrestling?

Well, its football season right now, and I play fantasy football, so I’m big into watching that. Usually, it’s hockey though.


Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played football, basketball and soccer. I played football my freshman year of high school and then switched to just wrestling.


Who is your favorite wrestler to watch either past or present?

Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan 65 kg). If not Aliyev, Jordan Burroughs.


What are some of your other hobbies off of the mat?

I get to travel a lot, so sightseeing is a big thing. When we were at acclimation camp in Germany before the World Championships, we went to Switzerland and did some hiking in the Swiss Alps. That was pretty cool. It’s hard taking good quality pictures because nothing beats the eye, but I’ve gotten a little into photography. I don’t have my own camera yet, but I’ve been looking at a couple.


What is your biggest fear?

The deep ocean.


Do you have any plans once your wrestling career is over?

I have a degree in English with a minor in business. Right after college, I was looking at law school. I ended up wrestling freestyle, but one of my close uncles is a lawyer. He kind of got me into that mindset of being a lawyer. So when I’m done wrestling, I could see myself doing that.


How did you first get involved in wrestling?

My older brother Randy, who is also a Lehigh All-American, brought home a flyer when he was five and I was four. My dad wrestled in high school, and he thought it was a good idea.


What was the best advice you’ve received in your career?

Olympic gold medalist Bobby Weaver was my wrestling coach when I was little. He told me that I needed to have three partners: one partner that would beat me up, one partner that I was even with and one partner that I could beat up. This meant I was constantly humbled, constantly being pushed and constantly being able to work on my stuff and build confidence.


What advice would you give to a younger wrestler?

Don’t shy away from wrestling people better than you. Growing up, I had kids like Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph, Joey McKenna and Nathan Tomasello in my brackets. I grew up wrestling those kids every other weekend. It makes you tougher.


Do you have any pre-match rituals?

I’m not really superstitious. I listen to music, and then a match or two before I’m up, I like tuning into the match and listening to the crowd a little bit. I like taking the environment in and staying in the moment.


What motivates you during training?

“How bad do you want it?” That’s something I say to myself a lot, especially when I’m doing sprints or anything that takes a lot of energy. I also repeat “best in the world” a lot. It motivates me to focus on what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. It keeps my goals fresh in my head.


What is your best wrestling memory to date?

In the semifinals of the 2017 NCAA tournament, I had to dig deep to get the win against (Thomas) Gilman. That was big, but my best memory has to be winning the finals. A lot of people don’t understand how tough that match was. (Ethan) Lizak majored me a couple months before the tournament. I took him down with 15 seconds left in the match to win the tournament. In the moment it’s great, but now looking back at it, wow, that’s a really hard tournament to win.


Why did you continue to train at Lehigh after graduating?

Coach Jeff Buxton was a big reason. He’s really been helping me out. Coach Pat Santoro is great too and has been my coach since day one. He’s helped me grow as a person and as an athlete. I think it’s the best place for me, and it’s what I need to keep growing. Having someone like Buxton there is really great. He was a coach at the World Championships this year. Everyone goes to him to pick his brain about on and off the mat stuff. He’s just an awesome guy to be around.


What’s the difference between being a student athlete and being a full-time athlete?

Honestly, I’ve got way more time on my hands. You think it’d be easier, but it’s different. Having a regimented schedule and having to be places at a certain time helps keep you on track. Right now, doing this for a year, I’m trying to manage having too much time. I’m trying to take all this extra time and put it towards working out and having recovery. I’m working to improve and perfect my time management. It’s awesome to be able to focus all my time and energy into being the best wrestler I can be.


The Cruz file
Birthday: February 7, 1995
Hometown: Bethlehem
High school: Bethlehem Catholic
College: Lehigh University
Residence: Bethlehem
Club: New York AC/Lehigh Valley WC
Twitter: @toicruz23
Instagram: @dariantoicruz
• 2017 NCAA Champion
• Three-time All-American (5th in 2018, 7th in 2014)
• 2018 Canada Cup champion
• 2019 Dave Schultz Memorial 3rd
• 2019 U.S. Open 5th
• 2015 University Nationals 2nd
• Two-time Pa. state champion (2012,2013)