At the time, current JP Morgan Chase Managing Director and Firm-wide Financial Controller Jefferson New ‘97 said he wasn’t really in the mix.
It was his sophomore year at Cornell and the 150 pound starter quit the team. He said there were about 10 guys ready to vie for the spot .. and he was probably 10th on the list.
“I wasn’t on the radar at all,” he said. “But there was a wrestle off tournament and I won it. [Then-head coach Rob Koll] made me wrestle off 13 times that year, but the good news is I never had to wrestle off again.”
Indeed, New became a fixture in the lineup for the rest of his career, winning 68 matches, with around 25 of those by fall. He was a multi-time EIWA placer at 158 pounds and earned a top 10 ranking in the country.
He defeated a top five ranked opponent from Lock Haven during his final year and also notched a huge fall as a senior in the match he said is his most memorable.
In a battle for the Ivy League Championship with Penn, New faced Josh Bailer, the returning EIWA champion. The Big Red needed a win from New — and he delivered. With a 4-1 lead and in the top position, New hit a shrug to a bear hug as Bailer stood up and put the Quaker on his back.
“It was at home and I went crazy,” he said. “It gave us a chance to win the dual, but unfortunately we didn’t that day.”
He looks back at his career, during which the team won multiple Ivy titles, fondly.
“I had a great time and my best friends in the world are all Cornell wrestlers,” he said. “We’re still passionate about the program.”
Just one of the ways New has shown this is the way he’s helped Big Red wrestlers and alumni jump start their careers.
New had an internship at Black and Decker as an undergrad and considered staying in Ithaca, where he ran the computer labs, after graduation. But Mike Polo ‘93 at JP Morgan interviewed him for a role on his team, and while he didn’t get that position, Polo sent his resume to another part of the company, where New did land the job.
“I’ve probably hired between 25 and 30 Cornell wrestlers over time,” New said. “It’s about paying it forward. What Mike [Polo] did for me was so important, and I take pride in helping young adults transition from college into the workforce.”
New has been at the company for 25 years now and as a Managing Director and the Firm-wide Financial Controller, he manages a global team of 750 employees, effectively closing the firm's books and records in the lead up to quarterly earnings.
How did Cornell get him ready for his professional success?
“Perseverance, being able to find people to lean on, leadership, and having access to a network of people who are like minded, are your friends, and go to war for you. There have been times that I reminded myself that nothing is as hard as cutting to 142 pounds when you’re 6 foot 1 and 19 or 20 years old,” he said. “I’m a team first guy and I liked the fact that there’s a role for everyone to play. I think I’m as passionate and enthusiastic about Cornell wrestling as anyone. I love that we can all be a part of it and have a piece of it and I’m focused on doing whatever I can to support the team and the amazing job Mike [Grey] has been doing.”
That even included going to the Palestra in March to watch the team’s dominant EIWA Championship performance.
“My career ended badly at the Palestra, so I don’t like to go there,” he said. “I was winning 6-2 in the semis [of the EIWA tournament], 29 seconds left, got reversed to my back and lost 7-6. But I went this year with my parents and my son and it was a great time.”
Family is also a huge part of New’s Cornell story, as the group is full of standout wrestlers and outstanding contributors and supporters of the program. Jeff's father Donald, a 1967 graduate, is a member of the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Upstate New York Chapter. He was an All-American and EIWA Champion as well as a legendary high school coach. Brothers Michael ’92 and Ben ’00 were both All-Ivy performers and EIWA finalists. Ben qualified for the NCAA tournament twice, won 80 matches in a Big Red singlet, and was a two-time conference runner up.
“I visited Cornell when I was a kid at least one Saturday a year,” he said. “We’d go to a football game and run around the turf. I grew up with Cornell wrestling with my dad and then Mike transferred there. Still, it wasn’t the plan for me until I got in and thought, ‘how could I do anything but go to Cornell?’”
Jefferson and Ben New are part of a contingent that attends the NCAA tournament every year.
“I’ve been going since 2005,” he said. “Here I am 25 years after graduating still as aligned and committed to the program as ever. People meet up with college friends at reunions every 5 or 10 years, but every third week in March, our wives and kids know that we’re out of pocket for that weekend. It was amazing to see the way the team performed this year. My 8 year old is fanatic sports fan and came to Tulsa and had a great time. The idea of introducing my kids to it; it gives me goosebumps talking about it.”
Maybe one day he’ll give his kids a recruiting pitch, but for now, he believes the program sells itself.
“There’s a deeply rooted tradition at Cornell and where they’ve taken it is just so special,” he said. “A great place, a great town, great people, and the sky’s the limit. Cornell wrestling is an opportunity to spend amazing years of your life in a place that will be part of you for the rest of your life.”
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