Freshman wrestler Malyke Hines at a meet against Navy. After sending all 10 wrestlers to Nationals, Lehigh wrestling didn’t have an All-American for the first time since 2009. The Mountain Hawks are already training for next season. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh wrestlers recap 2021 season

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After clinching an EIWA championship for the fourth season in a row, all 10 starting wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships in March.

Taking place at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri, five of the qualifying Mountain Hawks advanced to the tournament’s second day of action before being eliminated later in the evening.

While the team was disappointed to leave without an All-American for the first time since 2009, they remain hopeful for a competitive season next year and are using Nationals as motivation in their training this offseason. 

“It was definitely a bit of a disappointing tournament, both individually and team-wise but it fuels us to work even harder throughout the summer and into next year,” said junior Jimmy Hoffman. 

The Mountain Hawks returned to competition in January for the first time since the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Championships. 

Adjustments to COVID-19 protocols alongside spikes in positive cases resulted in the cancellation of four matches and further practice delays.

Freshman Luca Frinzi said that while the team had hoped for a better outcome to the season, they felt fortunate to have the chance to compete at all. 

“There was a lot of uncertainty leading up to our season, and so despite not finishing how we had wanted to, there was a sense of relief even making it out to nationals and having that opportunity,” Frinzi said. 

After taking a week for mental and physical recovery coming off of Nationals, the team is back to training in preparation for next season.

Of the 10 wrestlers that qualified for the NCAA Championships this year, senior Jake Jakobsen is one of the two not expected back.

Jakobsen said he has faith in the younger members of the team continuing to improve and carrying on a legacy of success in the Lehigh wrestling program.

“It is definitely tough that the safety policies don’t allow those of us graduating to be in there training with the younger teammates for the remainder of this spring, but I know for sure they are working as hard as they can to prepare for next year,” Jakobsen said. 

Hoffman said having a greater sense of regularity to practicing next season will be beneficial. While their schedule for next season is not out yet, they can at least expect to have a season now that sports have moved back toward normalcy.

“It’s promising that the team is now eligible for the vaccine so we can look forward to keeping positive cases down and get back to a continuous training cycle,” Hoffman said. 

With the improvements in COVID-19 conditions, the team also hopes to see the return of fans in the coming year. 

“I am really looking forward to competing with fans,” Frinzi said. “Having the support of a crowd in Grace Hall really changes the environment, and I think it will be really cool to experience that next season”

As Jakobsen concludes his final year wrestling for Lehigh and embarks on his career path, he said that the lessons he learned through the wrestling program and through head coach Pat Santoro he will continue to carry. 

Beyond success on the mat, Jakobsen said Lehigh wrestling has prepared him for post-college life.

“The ultimate goal is to be an All-American (and a) National Champion, but it is also to set you up for the future,” Jakobsen said. “I think the Lehigh wrestling program does well with that, and I hope to see that continued into next year and beyond.” 

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