Freshman Cortlandt Schuyler (left) wrestles freshman Brandon Diaz during practice at the Caruso Wrestling Complex in Grace Hall on Oct. 23. The team is preparing for the start of the wrestling season on Oct. 30. (Rebecca Wilkin/B&W photo)

Wrestling team prepares for wrestle-offs, upcoming season

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Lehigh University is well known for its strong academics and prestigious reputation. However, it also is notable for its rich history as one of the most dominant schools in the nation for wrestling.

As the leaves begin to change, and with the winter season right around the corner, all of the hard work the men of Lehigh’s wrestling team put in the off-season is about to pay off. Coach Pat Santoro, along with the rest of his staff, is ready to lead this pack of more that 35 wrestlers as the 2014-2015 wrestling season is about to begin.

“This team is the most talented one that I have ever been associated with,” junior All-American wrestler Mason Beckman said.

Beckman is looking forward to getting the chance to go out and compete with his team for an EIWA title. He also hopes to have success in the national tournament.

Beckman, a Pennsylvania native, is looking to add to his accomplishments after a strong showing last year. In 2013, he posted a 28-6 overall record and finished 6th in the NCAA Championship.

Joining Beckman is a standout heavyweight, junior Max Wessell. He is a top wrestler for the team, and Lehigh is hoping for him to be at his best this season. Although Wessell battled injuries, he was able to earn the starting heavyweight spot and qualified for his first NCAA tournament.

Putting aside his achievements, Wessel said he is even more excited about the future success of his team.

“We are bringing almost everyone back from last year, so I feel we are poised for success,” Wessell said. He added that if this veteran team continues to mature and get better, there is no doubt in his mind Lehigh wrestling will be a powerhouse.

The team will need to continue its hard work as it has a tough schedule ahead of it. The season begins this Thursday at 7 p.m. when Lehigh hosts its annual Wrestle-Offs in Grace Hall. Each wrestler on the team will fight for a starting spot in each weight class.

The team will then be put into action against Hofstra University on Nov. 6 and Pennsylvania State University on Nov. 9. This season’s schedule is packed with tough opponents, including Cornell University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois. The Hawks will also face difficult match-ups against Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association opponents Princeton University and Navy.

Lehigh will host the 111th EIWA Championship this year on March 6 and 7 in Stabler Arena. The Mountain Hawks’ NCAA qualifiers will proceed onto the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.

Senior Nate Brown is also one of the backbones and leaders of the team. Last season, Brown deferred his eligibility while moving up to the 184 lb. weight class. Brown went 19-3 competing unattached in open tournaments. He won open titles in various different open tournaments and his only loss was to an NCAA finalist from Maryland.

“I am extremely excited coming off of a redshirt year,” Brown said. “I feel like I have been caged up for a year and am very excited to get back and compete for the brown and white. The team just seems to understand each other and flow together very well.” He feels like this team is closer than any other Lehigh team he has ever been a part of during his four years.

This year’s team is full of potential and expectations. With the right leadership and determination, Lehigh’s wrestling team believes that they have the talent to be very successful.

“Along with the talent, the work ethic across all 35 plus members is outstanding and everyone is constantly trying to improve,” Beckman said. “Above all, it truly is a family, and I can’t imagine a better group of guys to go through this journey with.”

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