No. 12 ranked Lehigh wrestling beat No. 19 Army in a convincing 24-9 victory Friday night at West Orange High School in New Jersey for the Mountain Hawks’ eighth consecutive victory.
On a night when the Los Angeles Lakers honored Kobe and Gigi Bryant and the other individuals on board the fatal helicopter crash that shook the sports world, there was a less-publicized tribute in West Orange for fallen Army cadet C.J. Morgan.
Morgan, a West Orange High School graduate, passed away last June after a military vehicle accident. He was a standout member of the wrestling team.
“It was a pretty special night, and we were honored to be apart of it,” Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro said. “Sometimes there are bigger things than wrestling matches, and that’s how we felt tonight. We knew they were going to come in and give us a great battle, and every match was a fight. It was another great team with a great coach. So, for us, we didn’t look at it as their senior night, we looked at it as we were honoring C.J. Morgan.”
The match was back and forth until Lehigh senior Jordan Kutler pinned Ben Harvey late in the second period, securing bonus points for the Mountain Hawks. Army has been winless against Lehigh since 2008.
Junior Brandon Paetzell set the tone for the night in the 125 weight class. Tied at 0 after the first period, then up 3-1 after the second period, Paetzell won the match 6-3 to give the Mountain Hawks an early lead.
Junior Nick Farro was next for Lehigh, but Andrew Wert scored an early takedown for Army and Farro couldn’t recover. He lost the match 5-3 to tie the teams at 3-3.
After senior Ryan Pomrinca narrowly lost to Logan Brown 6-5, sophomore Jimmy Hoffman responded with a double-overtime victory over P.J. Ogunsanya to re-tie the match at 6-6 after four bouts.
An early takedown and a late escape were all sophomore Josh Humphreys needed to win his match 3-0 to give Lehigh a 9-6 lead.
After intermission, freshman Brian Meyer was up for the Mountain Hawks but couldn’t find a route to victory as Cael McCormick beat Meyer 7-3 to tie the dual at 9.
Lehigh then went on to convincingly win the next four bouts of the night to secure a 24-9 victory over the Black Knights.
Kutler was able to secure the first and the only pin of the night in the second period to give Lehigh a 15-9 lead.
Juniors Chris Weiler, Jake Jakobsen and Jordan Wood all held on for victories in the 184, 197 and 285 pound weight classes, respectively, as the Mountain Hawks pulled away.
Santoro said that the Kutler match was the turning point of the night.
“That was two ranked wrestlers,” Santoro said. “And you never expect a pin when you have two ranked wrestlers. Then all of a sudden, you have bonus points.”
Lehigh will look to make it nine wins in a row when they head to Bucknell on Feb. 14.