The Lehigh wrestling team captured its second straight EIWA title and is sending eight wrestlers to the 2019 NCAA tournament held in Pittsburgh March 21-23.
Trailing Cornell by 20 points at one point during the EIWAs, the Mountain Hawks relied on a full team effort to mount a league title and three individual champions: freshman Josh Humphreys (157), junior Jordan Kutler (174) and sophomore Jordan Wood (285).
“It is not a one or two or three man thing it is a 10 man thing,” Kutler said. “Obviously champs help, but there are guys who helped on the backside that kept winning to make a huge difference.”
Earlier this season, Lehigh found themselves with a startling 0-7 start, unusual for a team that was predicted to win the national championship last season. Battling season ending injuries and major setbacks, the Mountain Hawks dug themselves out of their hole.
What changed, Wood said, was the team’s shift away from its focus on winning to a desire to improve.
“Instead of setting materialistic goals, like win this or win that, we focused on getting better everyday,” Wood said. “We focused on the aspects of life that we could control, entering the room and working as hard as we can and making sure everything else is lined up for us to do that.”
Wood and Kutler both said the team has proven its depth this season and at times, has relied on unlikely characters, like Humphreys.
Humprehys came off of the bench as a freshman and now is competing for an individual NCAA title.
“I don’t think its that big of a deal (being a freshman), I am just going in and will try to get the job done,” Humprehys said.
He is just one example of a Mountain Hawk who has been asked to perform.
Kutler said that at times, the team relied on men who are deep in the roster.
“This year has shown the depth of our program is phenomenal,” Wood said. “We are able to have three, four men deep who step up and make a difference and are not just be a body to fill.”
Now, Lehigh’s main focus heading into the NCAAs is to relax. Kutler said his personal goal is to be on top of the podium, while also going into every match loose and ready to wrestle his hardest.
He said that he believes in himself and his ability. Wood and Humprheys both share the same mentality as Kutler.
Wood said he wants to wrestle freely and not have any regrets on the mat, keeping what coach Pat Santoro said in the back of his mind.
“He has told us all season the same thing,” Wood said. “It’s not what you do with adversity, it’s how you come out of adversity.”
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the PPG Paints Arena
March 21-23, beginning with session I at noon Thursday.
Junior Paetzell is the No. 20 seed is competing in the 133 weight class. He is 15-11 for the season and is facing No. 13 Austin Gomez of Iowa State.
The senior is the No. 24 seed and is competing in the 149 weight class. He holds a season record of 14-9 and is facing No.9 Justin Oliver of North Carolina State.
Freshman Humphreys is the No.8 seed and is competing in the 157 weight class. He is 19-6 on the season and is facing No. 25 Justin Ruffin of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
Senior Wolf is the No. 18 seed and is competing in the 165 weight class. He holds a season record of 19-6 and is facing No.15 Connor Flynn of The University of Missouri.
Junior Kutler is the No. 5 seed and is competing in the 174 weight class. He is 21-4 on the season and is facing No. 28 Jacob Oliver of Edinboro University.
Senior Preisch is the No. 8 seed and is competing in the 184 weight class. He is 20-3 on the season and is facing No. 25 Max Lyon of Purdue.
Junior Jakobsen is the No. 24 seed and is competing in the 197 weight class. He holds a season record of 10-7 and is facing No. 9 Benjamin Honis of Cornell.
Sophomore Wood is the No. 4 seed and is competing in the 285 weight class. He is 21-3 on the season and is facing No. 29 Sam Stoll of The University of Iowa.