Meyer Shapiro has been in a wrestling ring for almost as long as he can remember. His father got him started in the sport when he was around five years old, and Shapiro took off from there. The Woodbine, Md., native went on to win a gold medal at the U17 international tournament in 2021 and the U20 World Freestyle Championship in August, with goals of Olympic competition in 2024. Shapiro enrolled at Cornell University this fall and is projected to start on the wrestling team as a freshman.
Congratulations on winning the U20 World Freestyle Championship. What did that win mean to you?
It had a lot of emotion. A lot of things went into winning that tournament – training for it, a lot of mental effort and a lot of physical effort. It’s also about locking in your mind and putting something like that on a wall or just writing it down somewhere and working towards that goal. It means a lot to be able to accomplish that… it just means a lot to be able to represent my country and go out there and be able to perform well and wrestle to the best of my abilities.
What’s it been like transitioning to college level wrestling?
Obviously, it’s a higher level of wrestling, but I think being in such a good wrestling environment, having so many good people helping me out and just being there has really made a big difference in my confidence and my overall wrestling ability. So, it hasn’t really been too much of a change. It’s just a change of mindset. To be honest, wrestling is always hard and training is always hard.
You’re a freshman at Cornell. What’s it like being a student athlete at such a prestigious academic institution?
It wasn’t my plan to go to a prestigious school, but it’s just what happened. It happened to be where I felt most at home and most comfortable. But I will say, it’s just another thing to do on the to do list – it’s more work, more stuff to focus on, and I think that’s what prepared me well for a lot of hard things. And I think the school stuff is just a different type of hard thing. Writing a big paper and having labs and assignments is a lot different than beating someone up. For an Ivy League college, I don’t think school has been too hard. But I also just started, so we’ll see.
What plans do you have for after college if you’ve thought that far ahead?
My dream and my goal is to keep wrestling after college… so I will say right after college, I’m going to stay in Ithaca by Cornell and just train with the wrestling team. And my plan is to make an [United States] Olympic team. I’ll try to do that next year.
I saw that you wrestled someone from Iran. Was anything special about that match given the country’s dislike of Israel and you being Jewish?
He was not very happy when he found out I was Jewish, which I think was shortly after I beat him, because I think his whole country let him know that… I think it definitely made them upset. However, even after finding out that I was Jewish, he still shook my hand and he took the defeat. He’s an awesome competitor. I really hope that he can look past things like that. I started keeping in touch with him.
What does being Jewish mean to you?
The biggest thing I noticed was not seeing a lot of Jewish athletes and not a lot of high-level wrestling Jewish athletes. A Jewish wrestler is not something you see every day. So just being able to represent the Jewish community and especially with my name – I was named after somebody important in my family –it means a lot. Being able to represent Meyer Shapiro and just representing that name in the wrestling world and especially overseas where Jews aren’t always welcome means a lot. Being able to compete against countries like Iran who discriminate against us I think is awesome.