PISCATAWAY, N.J. – In a back-and-forth match that saw the lead change hands four times, Billy Smith’s 6-0 win over freshman Jack Delia gave Rutgers a 17-16 win over Lehigh Friday night at the RAC. The teams split ten bouts on the evening with the Scarlet Knights posting two wins by major decision while the Mountain Hawks managed just one.
Smith’s win gave Rutgers just its second win over Lehigh in 43 meetings and its first over the Brown and White since 1950, snapping a 38-match Lehigh win streak in the series. The loss drops the Mountain Hawks to 5-5 in dual action while the Scarlet Knights improve to 11-2.
“We just didn’t wrestle hard enough,” explained Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. “We knew we needed to have a high pace tonight and we didn’t do that. We had opportunities to win matches and we didn’t do that. We stopped wrestling a couple of times, which is unacceptable. We have to get a lot better. There are moments in every season that you have to learn from and grow from and we’re going to have to learn from this tonight.
Rutgers captured the first two bouts of the evening to go up 7-0 before Lehigh won three straight to lead 10-7 at intermission.
At 125 Joseph Langel gave the Scarlet Knights the lead with an 11-1 major decision over junior Alex Abreu, while Vin Dellafave edged freshman Randy Cruz 3-2 at 133. Cruz led 1-0 after two periods but Dellafave chose neutral and scored the go-ahead takedown on a double leg shot early in the third, adding 1:03 riding time which proved to be the difference in the match.
The Scarlet Knights appeared to be headed for a 10-0 lead as Trevor Melde led freshman Laike Gardner 2-0 with over four minutes of riding time after two periods. A penalty point for stalling sparked Gardner’s comeback, as the freshman secured a takedown and two point near fall to go up 5-2 as he held on for a 5-4 lead to get Lehigh on the scoreboard.
Senior Shane Welsh brought the Mountain Hawks within a point scoring a second period reversal and third period takedown in a 5-1 win over Ken Theobold at 149. Junior Joey Napoli then gave Lehigh its first lead with a 9-1 major decision over Scott Winston at 157. Napoli scored a second period takedown and flipped Winston for a two point near fall, before slapping on a cradle for three more near fall points. It took Napoli some time to get off bottom in the third, but a reversal in the final 20 seconds gave him the eight point advantage.
“Laike was aggressive as always,” Santoro said. “He came back. That’s what he does. The next matches went like we thought with the experienced guys. It doesn’t matter what age you are you need to step up and wrestle at high intensity at all times. We’re preparing for the national tournament. You have to be able to win matches that are tight and go out and make things happen. You can’t wait for things to happen.”
Rutgers reclaimed the lead in the first bout after intermission as Nick Visicaro won a 17-6 major decision over Ben Haas at 165, setting up one of the more anticipated matches of the night at 174 between Lehigh’s 12th-ranked sophomore Nathaniel Brown and Rutgers’ No. 13 Greg Zannetti.
Brown scored the first takedown on a re-shot in the first period and led 3-1 after two periods, but an escape and a penalty point for stalling pulled Zannetti even at three in the third. A third period takedown proved to be the difference as Zannetti prevailed 5-3 to put the Scarlet Knights up 14-10.
Lehigh won the next two bouts by 4-2 scores to reclaim the lead at 16-14, At 184, senior Robert Hamlin scored three second period points on a stalling call and a takedown to defeat Dan Rinaldi. At 197, freshman John Bolich used a second period reversal and two escapes to hold off Dan Seidenberg.
With the match coming down to heavyweight Smith collected takedowns in each of the first two periods plus an escape and substantial riding time advantage to clinch the match for the Scarlet Knights.
“Give credit to Rutgers,” Santoro said. “They were a better team tonight. We have to go back and get ready for two big ones next week.”
The Mountain Hawks will return home next weekend for a pair of duals against nationally ranked foes. Lehigh will host Oklahoma Friday at 7 p.m. at Stabler Arena and Oregon State Saturday at 2 p.m. inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. Tickets for both matches can be purchased by calling 610-7LU-GAME, but visiting the Lehigh Ticket Office, located in Stabler Arena, or by logging on to Lehighsports.com. The Oklahoma match is sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts and ROTC of the Lehigh Valley.
Rutgers 17, Lehigh 16
125 – Joseph Langel (Rutgers) major dec. Alex Abreu (Lehigh) 11-1
133 – Vin Dellafave (Rutgers) dec. Randy Cruz (Lehigh) 3-2
141 – Laike Gardner (Lehigh) dec. Trevor Melde (Rutgers) 5-4
149 – Shane Welsh (Lehigh) dec. Ken Theobold (Rutgers) 5-1
157 – Joey Napoli (Lehigh) major dec. Scott Winston (Rutgers) 9-1
165 – Nick Visicaro (Rutgers) major dec. Ben Haas (Lehigh) 17-6
174 – Greg Zannetti (Rutgers) dec. Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh) 5-3
184 – Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) dec. Dan Rinaldi (Rutgers) 4-2
197 – John Bolich (Lehigh) dec. Dan Seidenberg (Rutgers) 4-2
285 – Billy Smith (Rutgers) dec. Jack Delia (Lehigh) 6-0
Attendance – 1,408
Referee – Tom Corey