The No.11 Lehigh wrestling team used an all-around performance to avenge last year’s loss to No. 12 Rutgers University in the NWCA National Duals, beating the Scarlet Knights 20-10 Friday night at the Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.
Last year in the National Duals, Lehigh (10-4, 7-1 EIWA) traveled to Rutgers and lost a tight 18-15 battle.
A multitude of guys came through for the Mountain Hawks to seal the victory including junior Scott Parker (133), senior Laike Gardner (149), senior Drew Longo (157) and sophomore Andrew Price (184).
Arguably the biggest match of the night was the last bout before intermission at the 157-pound weight class, where unranked Longo upset No. 17 John Van Brill late in the third period to give Lehigh a 13-3 lead going into intermission.
“I was pretty tired to be honest with you because I just cut down to 57, but I was just saying, ‘keep fighting to the whistle blows,’” Longo said. “’This will all be over in a couple seconds just keep going,’ and that’s what I was saying to myself just keep wrestling.”
Longo was down 1-0 halfway through the third period when he scored a key reversal to put him up 2-1. With the crowd fired up behind him, he was able to ride Van Brill out to motivate the Mountain Hawks going into intermission.
Lehigh controlled the entire match, with Rutgers only winning two of the first eight bouts. In the eighth bout, Price was able to ride out an overtime victory against Rutgers Phil Bakuckas to clinch the win.
Price escaped early on in the second period of the tiebreaker and then used scrappy defensive skills to hold the score at 2-1. Price nodded in agreement with the lively Lehigh crowd following his clinching match victory.
The Mountain Hawks victory on Friday night marked their second win in a row after losing their previous three matches to top ranked teams. The win also marked their first victory against a Big Ten team this year. The last time Lehigh topped a Big Ten team was last season when they beat Minnesota 22-12 in the Northeast Duals.
The Big Ten conference is widely known as the most competitive wrestling conference in the country.
Lehigh now looks to ride the momentum of their victory against Rutgers into the EIWA and NCAA championships coming up in March.
“Overall, I’m just really pleased with the team just to finish up the season this way. Now we got to go another level, another gear at the EIWAs and NCAAs,” Lehigh coach Pat Santoro said. “I think we learned that we can be in really tight matches when the chips are down. We can get through it, and I think they did that. That’s what it takes to get on the podium in March and win a national championship. You’re going to have to come from behind and find ways to win.”
Lehigh’s only EIWA loss was to Cornell University, which has won the last nine EIWA Championships. The Mountain Hawks lost to them on Jan. 21 at home in a close match, 21-20.
The EIWA Championships will be held in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, home of the Bucknell Bison, and will take place March 3-4.