Nate Brown wrestles in the National Championships at St. Louis, Missouri, in the 184-pound weight class against Cornell University wrestler Gabe Dean. Lehigh fell to Cornell 21-20 on Saturday to drop to 8-2 on the season. (Photos courtesy of Eric Hess)

Lehigh wrestling prepares for an encore to a solid season

Nate Brown wrestles Gabe Dean of Cornell in the finals match for the 184 pound weight class. Brown lost to Dean by a score of 6-2 to finish second in the NCAA National tournament. (photo courtesy of Eric Hess)

Nate Brown wrestles Gabe Dean of Cornell in the finals match for the 184 pound weight class. Brown lost to Dean by a score of 6-2 to finish second in the NCAA National tournament. (photo courtesy of Eric Hess)

The Lehigh wrestling team has a lot of positive take-aways from this past winter. They beat National Champions The Ohio State University in the NWCA National Duals in February. Junior Nate Brown, junior Mason Beckman and sophomore Mitch Minotti all earned All-American status, meaning the program now has 142 all-time All-Americans. The team also took 13th place in the NCAA Championships this year.

The team will lose only two seniors to graduation, Santiago Martinez and Marshall Peppelman. Brown, who was Lehigh’s sixth NCAA finalist in the past five years, will come back next year for his last season.

Brown had a memorable season, which featured a nationally televised match at the National Championship in Saint Louis, Missouri. He hopes to overcome Cornell University’s Gabe Dean, who accounted for four of Brown’s six losses this past season, including the loss in the National Championship. Brown finished in second place in the 184-pound weight class and finished his junior year 29-6. In addition to Brown, the team will return four All-Americans and 11 NCAA qualifiers.

At the same time, the team will gain several wrestlers who are coming off redshirt seasons, including sophomore Darian Cruz, junior Laike Gardner, freshman Dylan Milonas and freshman Ryan Preisch. They were allowed to compete in open tournaments during the season, but not in official matches. Sophomore Billy Ramsey is among those excited about the prospect of gaining these young men.

“I believe Dylan Milonas and Ryan Preisch are freshmen to look out for,” Ramsey said. “(Milonas) was an undefeated starter until he was injured and out for the rest of the season. During the redshirt season, Preisch was ranked in the top 20 in the country for beating ranked wrestlers at open tournaments.”

Preisch finished with a 16-5 record during open tournament matches this year, while Gardner finished with a 18-6 record. Cruz also had one of the best winning percentages on the team, winning 22 out of his 25 matches this year.

Senior Will Sullivan agrees that many wrestlers coming out of their redshirt year have the potential of having a big impact. This will create more competition among the team when it comes to wrestle-offs. Ramsey supports this idea, as well.

“Going into next year, wrestle-offs will be very difficult because of the talent on our team,” Ramsey said. “I will have to train hard and lift heavy during the offseason. I am also in the ROTC program, so my challenge will be prioritizing that material this summer as well as getting as much time on the mat.”

With a very talented roster, there are likely to be high expectations. New players will be developed in the offseason and will have to train with everyone else during the summer to prepare for the 2015-2016 season. There can be uncertainty with unknown weight classes in the beginning, but once everyone is set into their class they can get ready to prepare. Sophomore Doug Vollaro has high hopes for the next winter.

“This season went well,” Vollaro said. “We beat some good teams. We should be in contention for a national title come next year.”

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