ST. LOUIS – A strong overall NCAA tournament for Lehigh ended on a bittersweet note as seniors Brandon Hatchett and Zach Rey were denied national championships after losing in the national finals Saturday night at Scottrade Center. Hatchett lost by technical fall to David Taylor of Penn State, while Rey gave up a late takedown to drop a 4-1 decision to Tony Nelson of Minnesota.
“I didn’t have them ready,” said a disappointed Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro after the finals. “We had an opportunity to win a national championship with two guys and we let it slip. It’s unfortunate. They wrestled their hearts out. It was a great tournament for both of them. Everybody wrestled hard. It’s just a tough way to finish the season.”
The Mountain Hawks did post their second straight top ten team finish, coming in eighth with 61 points. Lehigh also crowned a total of four All-Americans with Hatchett and Rey placing second at 165 and heavyweight respectively, junior Robert Hamlin finishing fourth at 184 and senior Joe Kennedy taking eighth place at 197. The four All-Americans are the most for Lehigh since crowning five in 2004.
Hatchett had the unenviable task of facing 31-0 David Taylor of Penn State in the finals. Taylor scored bonus points in 29 of his 31 matches entering the finals and the championship bout proved to be no different as he scored early and often en route to a 22-7 technical fall in in 5:50.
After holding Taylor to an 8-5 decision in December at Stabler Arena, Hatchett was not able to replicate the feat second time around. Taylor scored three first period takedowns to lead 6-2 after one period and added a reversal, a takedown and a two-point near fall in the second period. He closed out the match with four more takedowns in the third period to sew up his first title.
Hatchett ends his career as a two-time All-American (7th, 2nd) with a 74-29 career record.
In the final bout of the night, Rey looked to repeat his championship performance from last season, but came up short against the Golden Gopher sophomore. After a scoreless first period, Rey chose down in the second was ridden for over a minute before finally escaping with a Granby roll. In the third period, Rey rode Nelson long enough to erase the Gopher’s riding time advantage, but late in the period, Nelson gained control of Rey’s legs at the edge of the mat. He was awarded the go-ahead takedown with seven seconds left, and rode out the remainder of the bout to regain riding time in a 4-1 win.
Rey’s Lehigh career comes to an end as a three-time All-American (3rd, 1st, 2nd) and a two-time finalist. With a 116-14 career record Rey ranks third on Lehigh’s career wins list. He became Lehigh’s 15th three-time All-American and its first three-time heavyweight All-American.
“Guys come here to win national championships and when they fall short it’s disappointing for the program,” Santoro said. “They (Hatchett and Rey) did everything they were supposed to do. My hat goes off to them. They overcame a lot of adversity. They had great careers and should hold their heads up high. They’re great people and I was fortunate to coach them. I just wish we could have gotten a couple more titles.”
Penn State pulled away with its second straight team title scoring 143 points, 25.5 more than second place Minnesota. Iowa and Cornell also eclipsed the 100 point mark and finished third and fourth respectively. Taylor capped a stellar 32-0 season by winning the Gorriaran Award for most falls and the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award.
With four All-Americans, Lehigh ties Michigan State for eighth in most all-time All-Americans with 135. The Mountain Hawks will lose four NCAA qualifiers including three of their All-Americans to graduation.
125 – Matt McDonough (Iowa) dec. Nico Megaludis (Penn St.) 4-1
133 – Logan Stieber (Ohio St.) dec. Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma St.) 4-3
141 – Kellen Russell (Michigan) dec. Montell Marion (Iowa) 6-4, s.v.
149 – Frank Molinaro (Penn St.) dec. Dylan Ness (Minnesota) 4-1
157 – Kyle Dake (Cornell) dec. Derek St. John (Iowa) 4-1
165 – David Taylor (Penn St.) tech fall Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh) 22-7, 5:50
174 – Ed Ruth (Penn St.) major dec. Nick Amuchastegui (Stanford) 13-2
184 – Steve Bosak (Cornell) dec. Quentin Wright (Penn St.) 4-2, s.v.
197 – Cam Simaz (Cornell) dec. Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro) 7-5
285 – Tony Nelson (Minnesota) dec. Zach Rey (Lehigh) 4-1
Top Ten Team Scores
1. Penn State 143
2. Minnesota 117.5
3. Iowa 107.5
4. Cornell 102.5
5. Ohio State 68.5
6. Oklahoma State 66
7. Illinois 62
8. LEHIGH 61
9. Northwestern 42.5
10. Oregon State 40.5