BLACKSBURG, Va. – No. 6 Virginia Tech won the first six bouts of the night to build a 24-point lead, which was too much for No. 12 Lehigh to overcome as the Mountain Hawks 23-15 to the Hokies Friday night at Cassell Coliseum. The Mountain Hawks won the final four bouts, including the seventh pin of the year for freshman Austin Meys, but it wasn’t enough as Lehigh falls to 10-6 on the dual season.
“We knew the key bouts we had to come through on and we didn’t,” said Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. “We lost six in a row. You’re never going to win a dual meet giving up six matches. Our last four guys went out there and fought really hard, but you can’t give any bouts away against a really good team.”
The Hokies (15-4) built an early 6-0 lead with wins in the first two weight classes. In both cases Lehigh wrestlers did well to avoid giving up bonus points. At 125 Jarrod Garnett scored two early takedowns and went on to an 8-3 win over senior Mitch Berger. A highly anticipated matchup of true freshmen followed at 133 between Tech’s Devin Carter and Lehigh’s Frank Cagnina. Both wrestlers scored first period takedowns with the period ending in a 4-4 tie. Carter broke the match open with a pair of second period takedowns and added three more in the third period, but fell just short of a major decision winning 16-9.
With nationally rankled Chris Diaz out of the lineup for Virginia Tech, Lehigh looked to capitalize at 141, but Zach Neibert gained control of freshman Stephen Dutton during a scramble and put him on his back, earning a surprising fall in just 55 seconds, which put the Hokies up by 12.
“It was unfortunate,” Santoro said of the turn of events at 141. “We’re in on a shot and end up on our back and get pinned. That’s a nine point swing there.”
Virginia Tech kept the momentum going with wins in the next three weight classes. A third-period takedown for Brian Stephens broke a 1-1 tie and earned him a 3-2 win over sophomore Joey Napoli at 149. Jesse Dong blanked junior Sean Bilodeau 6-0 at 157, while Pete Yates made it 24-0 in favor of the hosts when he pinned sophomore Josh Fitch in 1:39 at 165.
Freshman Austin Meys finally put Lehigh on the scoreboard with a fall in 4:19 over Matt Epperly at 174. Meys locked up a cradle and put Epperly away after a brief struggle for his seventh fall of the season.
Prior to the bout at 184, Virginia Tech had a team point deducted for unsportsmanlike conduct as John Dickson disappeared and then finally emerged after a delay of nearly five minutes. Once Dickson appeared, sophomore Robert Hamlin scored three takedowns, including two in the final period to pick up an 8-3 victory.
At 197 junior Joe Kennedy overcame a sluggish start to win 6-1 over Chris Penny, while top-ranked junior Zach Rey gave Lehigh its fourth straight win to close the dual as he defeated David Marone 5-2. Rey converted a single leg takedown in the first period and added an insurance score in the final seconds to improve to 21-0 on the season.
“We got beat by a good team tonight,” Santoro said. “We need to find ways to win those matches that we didn’t win tonight. We didn’t wrestle terribly. We needed to wrestle a special match and we didn’t do that.”
The Mountain Hawks will return to the mats on Sunday when they host Harvard and Brown inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. The Harvard match is slated for a 1 p.m. start while the Brown match will begin at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Lehighsports.com or at the Lehigh ticket office, located in Grace Hall on Sunday.
No. 6 Virginia Tech 23, No. 12 Lehigh 15
125 – Jarrod Garnett (VT) dec. Mitch Berger (LU) 8-3
133 – Devin Carter (VT) dec. Frank Cagnina (LU) 16-9
141 – Zach Neibert (VT) pinned Stephen Dutton (LU) 0:55
149 – Brian Stephens (VT) dec. Joey Napoli (LU) 3-2
157 – Jesse Dong (VT) dec. Sean Bilodeau (LU) 6-0
165 – Pete Yates (VT) pinned Josh Fitch (LU) 1:39
174 – Austin Meys (LU) pinned Matt Epperly (VT) 4:19
184 – Robert Hamlin (LU) dec. John Dickson (VT) 8-3*
197 – Joe Kennedy (LU) dec. Chris Penny (VT) 6-1
285 – Zach Rey (LU) dec. David Marone (VT) 5-2
Referee: Jim Chung
* - Virginia Tech deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct prior to 184 pound match