Posted: August 27, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh will celebrate its 100th season of wrestling in 2008-09 and head coach Pat Santoro has announced the Mountain Hawks’ schedule for the centennial campaign. The Brown and White will face a challenging slate that features ten home duals and five matches against teams that finished in the top 20 at last year’s NCAA Championships. Lehigh will also make return trips to the Journeymen/Brute Northeast Duals and the Virginia Duals; and will make its first trip to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational since 2001.
“We have a good, competitive schedule,” said Santoro. “We have some tough opponents lined up and some outstanding events that we will compete in. We’re excited to compete in the Las Vegas Invitational and the Virginia Duals. This schedule should give our team enough competition to get us ready for March, and that will always be our main goal. We want to be at our best in the post season and will focus on getting ready for EIWAs and Nationals.”
The 100th season of Lehigh wrestling will begin with the annual wrestle-offs, which this year will take place on a Sunday, November 2 inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. The regular season begins the following Sunday when the Mountain Hawks host Maryland. Santoro is very familiar with the Terrapins, a team he coached for the last five seasons. Maryland is now coached by Kerry McCoy, who coached alongside Santoro on Greg Strobel’s staff from 2000-2003.
The following weekend Lehigh will embark on its first road trip, as the Mountain Hawks will head to the Steel City to face Pittsburgh. The trip will be a homecoming of sorts for Santoro who was a four time All-American and two-time National Champion for the Panthers.
The Mountain Hawks will then return home for a pair of duals that will coincide with the Lehigh-Lafayette football game. On Friday, November 21 Lehigh welcomes Michigan to Stabler Arena for a dual that should be the perfect appetizer for the 144th edition of college football’s most played rivalry. The Michigan match will also be the 2008-09 Sheridan Dual, honoring the legendary former Lehigh head coach. Lehigh will be back on the mats on Sunday, November 23, when the Princeton Tigers, coached by former Lehigh All-American and assistant coach Chris Ayres visit Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall for a 1 p.m. match.
For the second consecutive year Lehigh will spend Thanksgiving weekend in Troy, N.Y. at the Journeymen/Brute Northeast Duals. Last year the Mountain Hawks went 2-2 at the day-long event. This season, Lehigh will open with Oklahoma State on the morning of November 29. Matches against UNC Greensboro, Binghamton and Appalachian State will follow for the Brown and White.
The month of December begins with a trip to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, which is one of the toughest and most prestigious in-season tournaments, but is an event Lehigh hasn’t competed at since the 2001-02 season.
After a break for final exams, the Mountain Hawks will wrap up the first semester on Saturday December 20 with a pair of duals in New Jersey. Lehigh will travel to New Brunswick to face Rutgers at 2 p.m. and then will head to Lawrenceville for an 8 p.m. showdown with Rider.
Lehigh will open the 2009 portion of its schedule on the road with matches at West Virginia on January 2 and at longtime rival Penn State on January 4. The Mountain Hawks will be looking to snap a four match losing streak to the Nittany Lions in the 97th meeting of Lehigh’s most contested dual series.
On January 9, Lehigh returns to Hampton, Virginia for the 2009 Virginia Duals. The Mountain Hawks went 2-2 at last year’s Virginia Duals, a tournament Lehigh has competed in seven times, winning the championship in 2003. The following weekend, the Mountain Hawks will head to Annapolis, Maryland for a key EIWA showdown with Navy. Last season, Lehigh edged the Mids 22-19 in one of the Mountain Hawks most memorable dual wins of the season.
After two months away from home, the Mountain Hawks will return to Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall on Friday, January 23 to face the Drexel Dragons, kicking off a string of seven home duals to end the regular season. The following day, Lehigh will be back on the mats against New England EIWA foes Harvard and Brown.
Following a week off, Lehigh will begin the month of February and the stretch run with a Friday night match-up with EIWA rival Bucknell on February 6. Saturday, February 14 brings a Valentine’s Day doubleheader with the Mountain Hawks squaring off against Army and Franklin & Marshall. Lehigh will wrap-up the dual season on Sunday, February 22 when it hosts Penn.
“We’re excited as a coaching staff,” adds Santoro. “For us it’s all new. We need to learn the team and they need to learn us. We’re a young team but as the season develops we fully expect to get better come March.”
The postseason begins on March 7, with the 105th EIWA Championships, hosted by Penn at the famed Palestra in Philadelphia.
The NCAA Championships will return to St. Louis for the second straight year, and will take place March 19-21 at Scottrade Center.
Lehigh returns 13 letter winners from last season’s team, including eight starters and seven wrestlers who have previously qualified for the NCAA Championships.