Senior wrestler Ryan Pomrinca watches a match from the sideline during the Wrestle-Offs. Pomrinca is unable to compete in the NCAA Championships after its cancellation. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Wrestlers rue missed NCAA Championship opportunity

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The Lehigh wrestling team captured its third straight EIWA Championship in early March. With momentum building, Lehigh was set to enter the NCAA Championships ranked No. 10 in the NWCA coaches poll and on an 11-match win streak before the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

“It’s nice to win the conference, but the ultimate goal was to win a national championship,” senior wrestler Jordan Kutler said. “I can only control what I can control and, as much as it sucks, the decision was made for the best.”

Senior Ryan Pomrinca qualified for nationals for the first time. He said he was excited and performed better at the EIWA Championships this year than in years past. 

He said he wishes he could have done more, but has tried to pass on his experiences to his teammates so they can set themselves up for success. 

“I ended on a high note, and coming to Lehigh was a really good choice for me,” Pomrinca said.

Kutler said he was having one of his best seasons ever. He said he was listening to his body and executing the little things necessary for a successful campaign. 

As the No. 3 wrestler in his weight class, Kutler said he felt he would have won nationals had he gotten the opportunity. 

“I did everything I could to give everything I had for Lehigh,” Kutler said. “Lehigh wrestling, the coaches, my teammates, the fans, the alumni — they have poured into me these last five years. When you have support like that, it makes you want to show out.” 

Kutler said he tries to be a leader in all aspects of the sport, doing everything he can to push himself and the team to success.

Though it may be the end of their careers, senior wrestlers like Kutler, Pomrinca and Brandon Paetzell have left their mark on Lehigh wrestling. 

The team was on a hot streak heading into the EIWA Championships with recent wins over No. 15 ranked Minnesota, No. 19 ranked Cornell and No. 5 Arizona State.

Kutler, a three-time EIWA Champion, said it was great to win at home — but proving doubters wrong was even better. 

“People and media outlets were counting us out,” Kutler said. “Everyone thought it was going to be a race between Cornell and Princeton. To get the third one in a row was more awesome than winning myself.”

Pomrinca said it was important to get so many bonus points in the tournament. He said Paetzell, who was upset in the quarterfinals, scored enough bonus points in the wrestle backs with pins to help the team find a victory. 

“Three-peat at Stabler was pretty sick,” Paetzell said.

When Paetzell lost and was in the locker room, he said associate head coach Brad Dillon came up to him and said if he scored enough points in the back-side, he would score more than if he were in the finals. Paetzell said he had a pin, tech fault and a major all on the back-side, which helped the team. 

Pomrinca said being able to win a championship starts with the coaching staff acting as more than just coaches, but people that care about you outside of life other than wrestling. 

“Everyone cares about doing well, being successful on and off the mat and being good people,” Pomrinca said.

Although the world wasn’t able to see Lehigh’s wrestlers compete for a national championship, a third-straight EIWA Championship still cemented a strong run of play for the team. 

“It’s a brotherhood,” Kutler said. “You have 48 best friends you can go to war with everyday in the room, hang out, go to class, and it’s a really tight-knit brotherhood and family.”

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