On Saturday, February 14th, 2015 nationally ranked junior Randy Cruz, '16 challenges junior Sahid Kargbo from George Mason at Grace Hall in preparation for nationals. Lehigh's overall record is 13-4 . (Toni Isreal/B&W photo)

No. 11 wrestling hopes to capitalize on opportunity in Iowa

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After placing fourth in 2005, seventh in 2001, and not placing in 2002 and 1998, the Lehigh wrestling team will have another chance to make program history at the National Duals in Iowa City.

This Saturday and Sunday, the Mountain Hawks will be participating in the National Wrestling Coaches Association’s National Duals for the fifth time in program history.

“The reason for us returning to the National Duals is to compete against the best teams in the country,” associate head coach John Hughes said. “This will challenge our athletes while giving them a chance to improve their current rankings for the NCAAs.”

Hughes also mentioned how Lehigh’s participation can go a long way towards giving the wrestling program national recognition.

“Our goal is to compete hard and knock off some key individuals in the process,” he said. “The goal is the same for any top tier program, and that is to win the National Duals.”

Senior wrestler Santiago Martinez has high expectations for his team in the upcoming tournament.

“We are concentrating on performing the best we can,” Martinez said. “We know that we are up there (with our competitors). If everybody does their part, we expect to be one of the top teams. We do not expect anything less from each other.”

The National Duals meet will be an opportunity for Lehigh to compete against top wrestlers before the NCAA Championships. The University of Iowa, the top-ranked program in the nation, is hosting the event.

The other programs ranked in the top four, University of Missouri, The Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota, will all be wrestling at the National Duels, as well. With these programs all being among Lehigh’s opposition this weekend, the Hawks are prepared for a challenge.

“Coach says the season is just preparation for nationals,” Martinez said. “We are starting to peak at the right time. The season has helped us. We have had extremely tough matches. We have all grown and we have had our ups and downs. (This is) the beginning of the postseason. A little more emphasis (is) on this match. As a team we always want to do well.”

With a current record of 13-4, the Mountain Hawks are in a positive mind set, but have had a few minor setbacks.

“I think our season has gone well for the most part,” junior Mason Beckman said. “It has had its ups and downs. (We) lost a couple of dual meets and in some rights that is frustrating, but the flip side of that is that we have competed against the best teams in the country. Being right there and competing at that level is obviously all you can ask for.”

With EIWA Championships and the NCAA Championships just a few weeks away, the Lehigh wrestlers are keeping their team mission in mind.  According to Beckman, the hope is that the team can put as many wrestlers on the podium as possible and rank in the top five or top 10 in nationals.

“(We have) gone through film, breaking down things that we need to work on and put it in every day at practice,” Beckman said. “We are doing a lot of early morning sprints, once or twice a week. Our conditioning is very high right now which is really good. We believe in our conditioning and we know that we can wrestle. We are back where we feel where Lehigh wrestling should be and that we can compete with anyone. We can step on the line with any team and scrap with them.”

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