As the 11th-ranked wrestling program in the nation, according to the USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll, Lehigh’s team is looking forward to another successful year. After competing in 14 matches, the team finds itself with more wins this year than last at this point in the season.
The Mountain Hawks are currently 10-4 with an EIWA conference record of 6-1. Last season, the team had an overall record of 10-6, finishing the EIWA 2013-2014 season 6-2. With four matches left before EIWA and NCAA Championships, Lehigh’s wrestling team has the potential to end the season with a better overall record than last year.
“This season, compared to last year’s, we have so much more talent, and we are young,” sophomore Darian Cruz said. Cruz weighs in at 125 lbs. and has an individual record of 18-3. He has one of the top individual records this season.
The young talent Cruz refers to includes the 12 freshmen that make up a little less than half of the wrestling team’s roster. Four freshmen have especially stood out this season by having more than 10 wins. These standouts include Scott Parker, with an individual record of 13-5; Cortlandt Schuyler, with a record of 15-9; Ian Brown, with a record of 11-6; and Ryan Preisch, with a record of 16-5.
“This season is going pretty well,” Schuyler said. “We are ranked No. 10 nationally in some polls. The team is improving.”
Schuyler said there are five wrestlers on the team ranked in the top 20, led by No. 3 senior Nate Brown (junior eligibility), senior Mason Beckman (junior eligibility), junior Mitch Minotti (sophomore eligibility), junior Elliot Riddick (sophomore eligibility) and junior Randy Cruz (sophomore eligibility).
“We are coming off a tough loss against No. 6 Cornell, but we were in the fight,” Schuyler said.
The Mountain Hawks had two matches last weekend at Grace Hall’s Leeman-Turner Arena. Lehigh defeated Franklin and Marshall College 40-6 but lost to Cornell University 21-9.
Three Lehigh wrestlers, Beckman, Cruz and junior Doug Vollaro (sophomore eligibility), were the only ones to defeat their opponents on Sunday’s match against Cornell. Beckman beat Cornell’s Bricker Dixon 9-4, Cruz won against Logan David 3-0 and Vollaro beat Jacob Aiken-Phillips 5-3.
Unfortunately, these wins weren’t enough for the Mountain Hawks to get the victory over the Big Red Bears.
“The good news is we’ll see Cornell at conferences,” Schuyler said. “Losses like this past weekend are only making us more ready for when it counts in March.”
Cruz also said how the Lehigh wrestling team’s poster, that features the team’s schedule, is called “Eyes on March.”
“We are focused on the postseason and our coach is good at doing that” Cruz said. “He has us peaking just in time for nationals, compared to other teams who peak at the wrong times.”
So far, the Mountain Hawks have conquered many teams, such as No. 13 University of Pittsburgh, No. 14 University of Illinois and No. 24 Northwestern University. Lehigh has only lost to No. 5 Pennsylvania State University, No. 22 Rider University, No. 15 Edinboro University and Cornell University.
“We have had a tough schedule so far and have been growing as a team every week,” said Minotti, who has an individual record of 8-3.
“We beat Illinois and Northwestern and Pitt earlier in the season, which gave us the confidence to know we are among the best team in the country,” Minotti said. “Though the season took a few tough losses, including the match against our rival, Cornell, we continue to learn and build from them.”
Minotti said the team needs to train harder than ever to be prepared for the post season. He said the team hopes to “avenge our dual meet loss to Cornell” at the conference tournament to be held this year at Stabler Arena.
The Lehigh wrestling team looks forward to its next three matches against Harvard University, Brown University and George Mason University before heading to Iowa City for National Duals.
“We are a top-10 team who can easily be a top-five team any day of the week,” Cruz said.
The Mountain Hawks’ next match is against Harvard at Grace Hall’s Leeman- Turner Arena at 12 p.m. The match will be broadcasted on ESPN Radio.