Come graduation, athletes who have redshirted but are in their fourth year at Lehigh have to decide whether to complete their eligibility or graduate.
Though fifth year Darian Cruz has exhausted his four years of wrestling and will be graduating May 21, senior wrestlers Gordon Wolf and Cam Fischer have not finished theirs. However, only Wolf will be signing on for another year.
Cruz said one of the most important parts of his Lehigh experience was the unique bonds he made with his fellow wrestlers.
“Something I’ve never really taken for granted is the team aspect that we have at Lehigh,” Cruz said. “Our team is so close, and the whole Lehigh experience is pretty cool.”
The relationships the Mountain Hawks formed with one another fostered an atmosphere that allowed the seniors to flourish on the mat and in the classroom during their years at Lehigh.
Wolf is graduating with a degree in finance but will be pursuing his masters in economics next year while completing his final year of eligibility.
Wolf said Lehigh wrestling impacted his life as a student and as a person.
“Mentally, I’ve gotten stronger in the classroom as well as on the wrestling mat,” Wolf said. “Physically, I wrestled at 138 pounds in high school, so I’ve grown a lot in that aspect. Emotionally, it makes you care about the things you put a lot of time into that you’re passionate about.”
Looking forward, Wolf said he is excited about the team’s lineup and to have another shot at accomplishing his goals.
While others are on their way to reaching their goals, Cruz will leave Lehigh as a three-time All-American, national champion and EIWA champion. He will be graduating with a degree in sociology on top of his English degree.
Cruz’s experience was different when it came to redshirting. While freshmen wrestlers usually redshirt, Cruz redshirted his sophomore year after becoming Lehigh’s first true freshman All-American since 1980.
“It was tough, but I had faith in my coaches,” Cruz said. “I was comfortable with redshirting my sophomore year. It was good to take the year off and not formally compete.”
Although Cruz owns a handful of individual accolades, he will always remember the sense of community he found at Lehigh.
“The biggest memories that’ll stick with me are the times that the Lehigh community stands up and supports us, because that’s something that you don’t get elsewhere,” Cruz said.
Cruz is now embarking on his post-collegiate journey to make the U.S. Wrestling Team.
“I feel like I’m a freshman all over again,” Cruz said. “I’m so used to the collegiate level, but now I’m back on the bottom of the totem pole.”
Fischer is also graduating May 21, but, unlike Cruz and Wolf, will not be exhausting his eligibility. He finished his last season as a Lehigh wrestler 9-7 at 149 pounds. Despite having one year left before completing his eligibility, he decided that his time on the team was over. He is graduating with a computer engineering degree.
“I’m really sad to leave my friends, but my time has come to step away,” Fischer said. “I feel at peace with my wrestling career. I’m ready to move on.”
Although Fischer is ready to leave Lehigh, he said he is grateful for his collegiate wrestling experience.
“I know for sure I’m in a better spot now than I would’ve been if I hadn’t wrestled,” Fischer said. “I’ll never forget all of the friends on my team. We’re all really close. Wrestling teaches you a lot, and it will help prepare me for whatever is yet to come.”