BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Down 14-7 at intermission, No. 11 Lehigh won four of the final five bouts to rally for a 23-17 win over No. 18 American Sunday inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. Freshman Austin Meys put the Mountain Hawks ahead with his tenth fall of the season, while junior Zach Rey clinched the dual for the Brown and White with a 5-3 win over Ryan Flores at heavyweight.
With the win, Lehigh improves to 13-6 overall and 5-1 against EIWA opponents, while American falls to 13-5, 2-1 within the EIWA. The victory is also the 100th for Pat Santoro as a head coach. Santoro won 48 duals in five years at Maryland and has now won 52 for the Mountain Hawks.
“That was a really good win,” Santoro said. “American has a very good team, we knew that coming in. They’re well coached. We knew it would come down to heavyweight and they’ve split matches before so we knew there were no guarantees there. The guys really stepped up. Steve Dutton had a great day and Hatchett did a great job keeping his composure. Those were the two swing matches.
The Eagles started strong as Nick Arujau won by second period technical fall over senior Mitch Berger in the opening bout at 125, but as has been done many times before this season Lehigh’s true freshmen gave the Mountain Hawks a big boost.
At 133 Frank Cagnina put Lehigh on the board with a dominating 16-2 major decision over Kevin Tao. Cagnina scored one takedown in each period and added a near fall to all three of his takedowns. Dutton then gave the Mountain Hawks the lead with an 8-4 upset win over 14th-ranked Matt Mariacher at 141. Dutton scored the first takedown on a counter shot in the first period, and finished with one takedown in each period. Tied at four entering the third period, Dutton escaped to take the lead and countered another low single shot from Mariacher to clinch the win with a takedown.
“His win was huge,” Santoro said of Dutton’s effort. “Stephen’s been on the brink of a breakthrough win and he finally got one today. He kept his composure and wrestled hard. It was a great match for him.”
American captured the next two bouts to take a 14-7 lead into intermission. Ganbayar Sanjaa made a late first period takedown hold up in a 2-1 win over sophomore Joey Napoli at 149, while at 157 top-ranked Steve Fittery and junior Sean Bilodeau lit up the scoreboard with points before Fittery finally stuck Bilodeau on his back for a fall at 2:56.
Coming out of intermission Lehigh needed a win from Hatchett at 165, but American’s Patrick Graham came out strong with the first takedown. Hatchett settled down however, taking the lead in the second period with a two-point near fall. He added an escape and a takedown in the third to win 7-2 and pull Lehigh within four at 14-10.
Meys then put the Mountain Hawks in front with his fourth straight win by fall and his tenth pin overall this season. Three takedowns and an escape put Meys up 7-3 on Tanner Shaffer in the second period. After his fourth takedown, Meys worked Shaffer over with a quarter nelson and earned the fall at 4:50.
Sophomore Robert Hamlin gave Lehigh a six point cushion with a 14-4 major decision over Thomas Barreiro at 184. Hamlin scored two takedowns in each period for his 22nd win of the season.
At 197 junior Joe Kennedy looked to avenge a loss to Daniel Mitchell in last year’s EIWA tournament, but in a low scoring affair Mitchell scored a takedown late in the third period to win 3-2 and give the Eagles a chance heading into the final bout.
Rey and Flores had met twice before, with Flores winning 6-1 in the 2009 EIWA finals, and Rey prevailing 4-2 in this year’s Midlands semifinals. In the rubber match the top-ranked Rey escaped in the second period to lead 1-0 then spun behind the third-ranked Flores after a lengthy scramble for a takedown. A pair of escapes had Flores within 3-2 in the third period, but Rey came up with a second takedown and went on to win 5-3, improving his season record to 24-0.
“Zach has been learning a lot,” Santoro said. “He wrestled really hard in that third period and picked up the pace. Flores is a really good opponent. That could be a national finals match. The heavyweights are so good in our conference, and Zach has seen them all, which gives him confidence going forward.”
The Mountain Hawks will return to the mats on Thursday, February 17 when they travel to Piscataway, N.J. to face No. 8 Rutgers. The match is set for a 7 p.m. start from the RAC with audio coverage on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 as well as online at Lehighsports.com.
Lehigh 23, American 17
125 – Nick Arujau (AU) tech fall Mitch Berger (LU) 15-0, 3:47
133 – Frank Cagnina (LU) major dec. Kevin Tao (AU) 16-2
141 – Stephen Dutton (LU) dec. Matt Mariacher (AU) 8-4
149 – Ganbayar Sanjaa (AU) dec. Joey Napoli (LU) 2-1
157 – Steve Fittery (AU) pinned Sean Bilodeau (LU) 2:56
165 – Brandon Hatchett (LU) dec. Patrick Graham (AU) 7-2
174 – Austin Meys (LU) pinned Tanner Shaffer (AU) 4:50
184 – Robert Hamlin (LU) major dec. Thomas Barreiro (AU) 14-4
197 – Daniel Mitchell (AU) dec. Joe Kennedy (LU) 3-2
285 – Zach Rey (LU) dec. Ryan Flores (AU) 5-3
Attendance – 1,444
Referee – Jeff Cook