PHILADELPHIA – Junior Zach Rey won Lehigh’s 27th individual national championship with a 2-1 decision over American’s Ryan Flores in the heavyweight finals of the 2011 NCAA Championships Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena. One minute and 33 seconds of riding time was the difference as Rey captured Lehigh’s first national title since 2004, and the first for a Lehigh heavyweight since 1936.
"Lehigh is a great program and it’s great that we got another national champion for the team, the fans and the Lehigh wrestling community," Rey said in the post finals press conference. "We had two finalists and we’ve come far. We didn’t have an All-American for three or four years, now we have two finalists and three All-Americans. That’s amazing. We’re making huge strides."
After a scoreless first period in the title bout at heavyweight, Rey opened the scoring with an escape with a shoulder roll into a stand-up ten seconds into the second period. With no further scoring Rey took a 1-0 lead into the third period. Flores chose down, but Rey rode well from the top position, using a series of lifts and trips to maintain control. Rey built a riding time advantage of 1:33 to essentially give himself a 2-0 but narrowly escaped a reversal attempt by Flores in a wild scramble with 17 seconds remaining.
"We got into a funky position in the third period," Rey said. "I knew just to hold onto that leg and try to roll through to get to my stomach and that’s what it turned out to be. He gave me a lot of riding time and helped me kill the clock in the third period."
Rey released Flores with 16 seconds left and kept his defensive positioning to win 2-1 with the riding time point being the difference.
"Rey wrestled a great match," said Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. "Ryan Flores is a really good wrestler. It’s a tactical match. The scramble at the end was a little nerve racking but Zach held on."
Rey did not allow a takedown all season and finishes his junior year with a 34-1 record. Saturday night’s finals match was the fourth of the year between Rey and Flores with Rey winning three of the four bouts. Rey becomes the 21st individual to win a national championship and the first since Troy Letters won at 165 in 2004.
Lehigh’s other finalist, sophomore Robert Hamlin came up short in his bid for a national title, falling 5-2 to Quentin Wright of Penn State in the finals at 184.
The first period of the finals bout saw no scoring, with Hamlin kicking his leg free on the edge following a shot by Wright.
In the second period Hamlin deferred his choice to Wright, who chose down and escaped to take a 1-0 lead. Twenty seconds later Wright hit a double leg shot for a takedown to extend his lead to 3-0. Hamlin escaped to get on the board, and then got in on a single but Wright was successfully able to counter and stave off the shot attempt. With less than ten seconds remaining in the second period, Wright converted another double leg takedown to take a 5-1 lead into the third.
Hamlin escaped to open the third but could not get any offense going against Wright, who prevailed 5-2 to win the only individual title for the team champions. Hamlin’s sophomore season comes to an end at 32-3.
"You can’t stand around against Wright," Santoro explained. "He’s very dangerous. We have to keep the action going and Robert couldn’t do that like he wanted to in the first period and that set the tempo for the match. He’ll learn from that and he had an outstanding season."
In Saturday’s morning session, junior Brandon Hatchett clinched seventh place at 165 with a 3-0 win over Paul Gillespie of Hofstra. Hatchett scored the only takedown of the bout 2:03 into the first period, and added a third period escape for his 22nd win of the season.
"The last six weeks we have been wrestling really hard," Santoro said. "We made mistakes but it hasn’t been effort. The effort has been outstanding. We have two guys who are upset about the All-American round and obviously Robert is a little disappointed, but we’re proud of the way they wrestled. They laid it on the line and let the chips fall where they may."
With its three All-Americans, its most since 2006, Lehigh finished in eight place with 58.5 points, the program’s first top-ten finish since 2006. Penn State racked up 107.5 points to win its first team title since 1953 and only the second ever title for an Eastern school. Cornell finished second with 93.5 points, while Iowa took third with 86.5. Arizona State senior Anthony Robles, the national champion at 125, was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.
Seventh place match
165 – Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh) dec. Paul Gillespie (Hofstra) 3-0
125 – Anthony Robles (Arizona St.) dec. Matt McDonough (Iowa) 7-1
133 – Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma St.) dec. Andrew Hochstrasser (Boise St.) 8-4
141 – Kellen Russell (Michigan) dec. Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly) 3-2
149 – Kyle Dake (Cornell) dec. Frank Molinaro (Penn St.) 8-1
157 – Bubba Jenkins (Arizona St.) pinned David Taylor (Penn St.) 4:14
165 – Jordan Burroughs (Nebraska) major dec. Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma) 11-3
174 – Jon Reader (Iowa St.) dec. Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford) 10-3
184 – Quentin Wright (Penn St.) dec. Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) 5-2
197 – Dustin Kilgore (Kent St.) pinned Clayton Foster (Oklahoma St.) 4:56
285 – Zach Rey (Lehigh) dec. Ryan Flores (American) 2-1
Final team scores
1. Penn State 107.5
2. Cornell 93.5
3. Iowa 86.5
4. Oklahoma State 70.5
5. American 65
6. Arizona State 62.5
7. Minnesota 61
8. LEHIGH 58.5
9. Boise State 57.5
10. Wisconsin 54.5