BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The second-largest home crowd in Lehigh wrestling history packed Stabler Arena Friday night for the 100th meeting between Lehigh and Penn State, where the defending national champion and fifth-ranked Nittany Lions downed the tenth-ranked Mountain Hawks 24-12 in front of 5,584. Captains Robert Hamlin, Joe Kennedy and Zach Rey posted victories for Lehigh as did freshman Chris Dinnien who posted an upset win at 133, but the Mountain Hawks (5-3) saw their five dual win streak come to an end.
"I’ve been very fortunate in my life to coach at both places," explained Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. "I know how important wrestling is at Lehigh and Penn State and both have some of the best fans in wrestling. We have a lot of respect for their program, it’s very intense rivalry but there is just a lot of respect on both sides.
Santoro continued, "They have some studs in the lineup and our guys have to get better quickly and close that gap by March."
After freshman Mason Beckman fell to Nico Megaludis 4-0 in a battle of talented true freshmen at 125 Dinnien posted his first career-dual meet win and the first for Lehigh at 133 by defeating Derek Reber 10-7. Dinnien opened the scoring with a takedown on the edge of the mat, before yielding a reversal. After Reber had built a riding time advantage, Dinnien reversed the Nittany Lion to his back for a five point move to take a 7-2 lead after one. Dinnien added a counter takedown in the second period plus a third period escape, while Reber could only muster two escapes, a third period takedown plus riding time.
Penn State (2-1) then capitalized on three consecutive major decision wins to build a 15-3 lead at intermission. Senior Sean Bilodeau made his season dual debut for Lehigh after dropping back down to 157, but dropped a 10-1 major decision to tenth-ranked Dylan Alton.
The Nittany Lions took control of the dual with five consecutive wins from 141 through 174. David Taylor edged senior Brandon Hatchett 8-5 in a battle of top five grapplers at 165. Hatchett actually scored the first takedown of the bout against the top-ranked Nittany Lion, but Taylor reversed and eventually took control of the bout with two second period takedowns. At 174 Ed Ruth picked up six points for Penn State when he won by injury default over Nate Brown. Ruth built a 12-1 lead before Brown defaulted at the end of the second period.
One of the more anticipated bouts of the night came at 184 where Hamlin met defending national champion Quentin Wright in a rematch of last year’s NCAA finals. Hamlin defeated Wright in last year’s dual at Rec Hall, and this time prevailed 8-3. Hamlin scored a pair of first period takedowns, and then added a reversal and a counter score in the third.
"Robert is very focused and wants to be a national champion," Santoro said. "Quentin is a tremendous wrestler and very dangerous, you can’t relax against him and Robert did a great job. They will see each other a lot over the next couple of years."
At 197, Kennedy won a 2-0 decision over Justin Ortega with a second period escape and riding time advantage, while Rey helped continue Lehigh’s strong finish by defeating Cameron Wade 3-2. Rey scored an escape plus a takedown on a high single leg in the second period to account for his scoring.
"We have some work to do, but they need a break right now," Santoro said. "We’ve been going nonstop since early November and they are a little tired, but they fought hard tonight. We were outmatched a couple of times, but they fought hard and that’s all you can ask for."
The Mountain Hawks will return to the mats at the Midlands Championships, December 29-30 in Evanston, Ill.
Penn State 24, Lehigh 12
125 – Nico Megaludis (PSU) dec. Mason Beckman (Lehigh) 4-0
133 – Chris Dinnien (Lehigh) dec. Derek Reber (PSU) 10-7
141 – Bryan Pearsall (PSU) major dec. Jim Carucci (Lehigh) 12-2
149 – Frank Molinaro (PSU) major dec. Anthony Salupo (Lehigh) 14-3
157 – Dylan Alton (PSU) major dec. Sean Bilodeau (Lehigh) 10-1
165 – David Taylor (PSU) dec. Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh) 8-5
174 – Ed Ruth (PSU) injury default Nate Brown (Lehigh) 5:00
184 – Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) dec. Quentin Wright (PSU) 8-3
197 – Joe Kennedy (Lehigh) dec. Justin Ortega (PSU) 2-0
285 – Zach Rey (Lehigh) dec. Cameron Wade (PSU) 3-2
Attendance – 5,584
Referee – Jake Llewellyn