BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Less than 24 hours after an impressive 34-7 win over Hofstra, the Lehigh wrestling team was unable to deliver a similar performance in Saturday’s match with Penn as the 21st-ranked Mountain Hawks fell to the Quakers 24-12 in the annual Billy Sheridan Memorial Dual inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.
On a day in which Lehigh welcomed back eight wrestlers who competed under legendary head coach Billy Sheridan, Penn won the first four bouts and seven matches overall in its first win over Lehigh since 2008.
Junior Joey Napoli, sophomore Nathaniel Brown and senior Robert Hamlin delivered victories for the Mountain Hawks, who fall to 3-2 with the setback. Penn improves to 1-1 with the win. Saturday’s match was the EIWA opener for both teams.
Penn rode an impressive start to a 15-0 lead after four bouts. At 125 Mark Rappo turned a quick takedown into a first period fall against junior Alex Abreu. Geoffrey Bostany extended the Penn lead at 133 with a 6-0 decision over freshman Cody Kievman, who made his varsity dual debut in place of classmate Laike Gardner.
“It was Jekyll and Hyde. It started right out of the chute with the pin which game them a lot of momentum,” said Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. “After that it was very basic stuff. We were getting beaten in hand fighting and getting beat at the end of periods. It’s hard to look that good and then turn around and look this bad. With a young team we’re going to have some Jekyll and Hyde appearances throughout the year.”
One day after upsetting eighth-ranked Luke Vaith of Hofstra, sophomore Anthony Salupo came out strong with the opening takedown against C.J. Cobb at 141. In a precursor of things to come for the Mountain Hawks, Cobb took the lead with a takedown late in the first period and did not allow an escape. Cobb continued to get stronger as the match progressed scoring four more takedowns in a 12-5 decision.
The Quakers posted their fourth straight win at 149 as Andrew Lenzi edged senior Shane Welsh 3-2, with a first period takedown and then a 1:13 riding time advantage proving to be the difference in the match.
Napoli finally put Lehigh on the scoreboard with an 11-1 major decision over Troy Hernandez at 157. After a scoreless first period, Napoli escaped to open the second then added a takedown and three point near fall and never looked back en route to his fifth straight win.
Lehigh was done in by another late takedown at 165 as freshman Eric Hess gave up a late two-pointer in his match with Casey Kent to fall 4-3. Kent’s surprising win gave Penn an 18-4 lead.
Wins by Brown and Hamlin allowed Lehigh to claw back into the match. Brown avenged a sudden victory loss to Ian Korb last year with a 7-1 decision at 174, as he benefitted from takedowns in each of the first two periods plus a 2:59 riding time advantage.
“Nate’s starting to hit his groove a little bit,” Santoro said. “He hit it a bit last night and then picked up today where he left off. He wrestled a very good wrestler today. To dominate like that was a good win for him.”
Hamlin enjoyed another solid effort, defeating Harrison Cook by technical fall, 17-2 in 6:03 at 184. In addition to his strong takedown ability, Hamlin showed some improved skill from the top position, turning Cook for a pair of three-point near falls. Hamlin’s win brought Lehigh within 18-12 with two bouts remaining.
With All-American Micah Burak out of the Penn lineup, the Quakers bumped Canaan Bethea up to 197 to face John Bolich. Despite two early stall calls, which gave Bolich a 1-0 lead, Bethea scored a late first period takedown and added a second period escape to win the match 3-1 and clinch the dual for the visitors. The final bout of the dual ended 3-1 as well, with Penn’s Steven Graziano defeating freshman Jack Delia.
“It wasn’t the effort we were expecting and (the wrestlers) know that,” Santoro said. “They’re a competitive group. We’ll get back to work. We have a big dual coming up next week and we have to move forward.”
The Mountain Hawks will return to the mat on Thursday when they make their first trip to Iowa since 2002 to face the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The match is set for a 5:30 p.m. (ET) start with audio coverage on ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 as well as Lehighsports.com.
Penn 24, Lehigh 12
125 – Mark Rappo (Penn) pinned Alex Abreu (Lehigh) 1:05
133 – Geoffrey Bostany (Penn) dec. Cody Kievman (Lehigh) 6-0
141 – C.J. Cobb (Penn) dec. Anthony Salupo (Lehigh) 12-5
149 – Andrew Lenzi (Penn) dec. Shane Welsh (Lehigh) 3-2
157 – Joey Napoli (Lehigh) major dec. Troy Hernandez (Penn) 11-1
165 – Casey Kent (Penn) dec. Eric Hess (Lehigh) 4-3
174 – Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh) dec. Ian Korb (Penn) 7-1
184 – Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) tech fall Harrison Cook (Penn) 17-2, 6:03
197 – Canaan Bethea (Penn) dec. John Bolich (Lehigh) 3-1
285 – Steven Graziano (Penn) dec. Jack Delia (Lehigh) 3-1
Attendance – 1,565
Referee – Joe Bartell