PHILADELPHIA – For the first time since 2004 a Lehigh wrestler will compete for a national championship as sophomore Robert Hamlin and junior Zach Rey both won semifinal matches Friday night at the NCAA Championships at Wells Fargo Center. The victories give Lehigh two finalists in one year for the first time since 2003, while Brandon Hatchett became the Mountain Hawks’ third All-American with a tiebreaker win at 165.
"They wrestled hard," Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro said of his finalists. "They came here to be national champions and now they have an opportunity tomorrow to go out and get it done."
Lehigh’s semifinal wins and Hatchett’s All-America points propelled the Mountain Hawks into sixth place with 53.5 points heading into the final day of competition. The Mountain Hawks are looking for their first top-ten finish since 2006 and have crowned three All-Americans for the first time since that year as well.
Hamlin, the No. 2 seed at 184, became Lehigh’s first finalist with a thrilling 6-4 sudden victory decision over third seeded Steve Bosak of Cornell, his third win over the Big Red wrestler this season. Believed to be the first Division I All-American from Vermont, Hamlin opened the scoring by converting a single leg takedown in the final seconds of the opening period.
Hamlin chose down to start the second period, but Bosak was able to ride out the period, and after an escape and no further scoring in the third period the match went into sudden victory, where Hamlin kicked his leg free and circled behind Bosak to secure the winning takedown and punch his finals ticket.
The win improves Hamlin’s record to 32-2. He will now face the No. 9 seed, Quentin Wright of Penn State in the national finals. Hamlin defeated Wright 4-3 back on November 14.
Rey broke through for his first finals appearance by winning a 2-1 decision over Missouri’s Dom Bradley. The top seed at heavyweight, Rey escaped to open the second period and then accumulated a 1:19 riding time advantage before cutting Bradley loose in the third. Rey will face a familiar foe in American’s Ryan Flores in the finals. Rey and Flores have met three times this season, with Rey winning the first two meetings and Flores prevailing in the tiebreakers in the EIWA finals. Rey is now 33-1 on the season.
Lehigh had a shot at five total All-Americans but will have to settle for three as only Hatchett won his match in the All-America round of 12. Hatchett defeated Scott Winston of Rutgers 3-2 in the tiebreakers. Winston had the only takedown of the match, but Hatchett mustered a pair of escapes and then rode out Winston in the first 30 second period before escaping in the second.
With the win Hatchett moved on to the consolation quarterfinals, where he dropped a 4-0 decision to Josh Asper of Maryland. Hatchett will now wrestle Paul Gillespie of Hofstra for seventh place.
"That was an important step for Brandon," Santoro said of the win over Winston. "He did a great job and showed a lot of heart fighting through that match. He was a little disappointed with his last match but he has to come back tomorrow and get seventh."
Freshman Stephen Dutton and junior Joe Kennedy fell just short in their quest for All-American honors. At 141, Dutton scored the first takedown against Zack Bailey of Oklahoma, but the Sooner rallied for a 9-5 win. Kennedy could not overcome a first period takedown as Matt Powless of Indiana escaped in the third period to win 3-2 at 197.
With three finalists Penn State moved into control of the team race with 92.5 points, while Cornell (75) and Iowa (74) occupy second and third. Oklahoma State is in fourth with 65.5 points, while American is fifth with 56, 2.5 more than Lehigh, with the Mountain Hawks leading Arizona State by one point for sixth.
The NCAA Championships conclude Saturday, beginning with the medal round at 11 a.m., which will be televised on ESPNU and ESPN3. The NCAA Finals will begin at 7:30 p.m. with television coverage on ESPN and ESPN3 and free audio coverage at Lehighsports.com.
Round of 12
141 – Zack Bailey (Oklahoma) dec. Stephen Dutton (Lehigh) 9-5
165 – Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh) dec. Scott Winston (Rutgers) 3-2, t.b.
197 – Matt Powless (Indiana) dec. Joe Kennedy (Lehigh) 3-2
184 – Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) dec. Steve Bosak (Cornell) 4-2, s.v.
285 – Zach Rey (Lehigh) dec. Dom Bradley (Missouri) 2-1
165 – Josh Asper (Maryland) dec. Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh) 4-0