After an 0-7 start to a season decimated with injuries, the Lehigh wrestling team has collected recent wins against Cornell, Arizona State and Oklahoma.
The team has been faced with one of its toughest schedules on top of losing All-American wrestlers to season and career-ending injuries. Four of the five wrestlers taken off the mat this season were ranked top 10 in the nation.
“Wrestling is a physical sport and injuries are expected, but not this much in quantity and severity,” said senior Gordon Wolf.
However, the multitude of injuries has not slowed down senior Jordan Kutler. This season, he has been focusing on doing the “little things,” which includes sleeping right and eating nutritious foods. He said he believes that the small things go a long way toward achieving his goal of becoming an All-American.
Kutler said his strategy on the mat this season is attacking with his feet more often and wearing guys out early on.
“You could stop what you’re doing, or you can use it as fuel to become a better wrestler,” Kutler said. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole career.”
Sophomores Luke Resnick and Brandon Paetzell were forced to step up and gain the necessary experience that will benefit them in future matches.
Wolf said he believes that despite the injuries and strength of schedule, the team has had a successful season and will continue to develop and improve the rest of the way.
“You can’t judge a team based on their wins and losses, you have to judge it on their strength of competition,” Wolf said.
While it has been a challenging season, coach Pat Santoro has remained positive and has kept the team motivated to compete and come out with victories despite difficult circumstances.
“Any time you have ranked wrestlers out of your lineup, it makes it more challenging, and we have lost two All-American wrestlers,” Santoro said. “We have now gotten starters back who had been previously out and the young guys are getting the necessary experience.”
Santoro said Kutler and sophomore Jordan Wood have stepped up the most, and the rest of the team is inspired because of their leadership.
One of the wrestlers that has defined the team’s season is true freshman Josh Humphreys.
“He’s a special kid,” Kutler said. “He’s a true freshman, there’s not a lot of kids who come into college ready to compete at a high level like that. He works really hard and fights really hard.”
Last weekend, Lehigh defeated Oklahoma 28-3 and lost 6-27 to No.2 Oklahoma State. After five weekends in a row of back-to-back duals, they will get a rest this weekend before welcoming Army and Penn for its final home matches of the season.
“Staying on track and doing those little things right, that’s the name of the game for March,” Kutler said. “Everything this season leads up to is March. I want to make sure that the team is ready to compete when we arrive in Pittsburgh.”
Santoro said he wants the team to continue to stay aggressive and look to score more points, no matter how difficult the assignment may seem.
“The plan is to continue to improve and for wrestlers to receive All-American awards and for the wrestlers to earn NCAA Championships,” Santoro said.