For the first time since February 2020, the doors of Leeman-Turner Arena opened for fans to cheer on Lehigh wrestling at the Brown and White Wrestle-Offs on Oct. 28. The Wrestle-Offs attracted 1,131 fans who poured in to watch 14 bouts.
The younger wrestlers made their mark throughout the night, winning eight of the 13 bouts overall.
Assistant coach Zach Rey said he looks forward to this season with the mix of young talent and experience from older wrestlers at their disposal. Rey said the majority of wrestlers are cutting weight for the season to optimize their success against this year’s competition.
“We wrestle a top 10 schedule compared to other universities, so we compete against a bunch of tough competitors every year,” Rey said. “But, our toughest competition this year will be Penn State, Oklahoma State, and Arizona State.”
Freshman Malyke Hines, recently named to the InterMat Pre-Season second team, completed two takedowns in his dominant 10-0 performance.
Hines was part of the early dominance for the underclassmen who won five of the first six bouts. Hines said he enjoyed watching his younger teammates get a win under their belt and experience the atmosphere of Grace Hall.
“The young guys on our team are super exciting to watch since there’s a lot of talent coming through the program for the next couple of years,” Hines said.
At 133 pounds, Hines dominated against his teammate Satoshi Abe in the second bout of the night.
Although it wasn’t the same atmosphere as a regular match, Hines said it felt good competing in Grace Hall. Usually, the matches are packed with screaming fans, but since the wrestlers competed against each other, it was hard to pick sides.
“Honestly, it’s tough matching up with your teammates because you practice with them every day,” Hines said. “But on the other hand, it is fun to go out there and put a show on for the fans.”
Lehigh’s returning EIWA champions junior Jaret Lane and freshman Sheldon Seymour matched up against each other in the first bout of the night. At 125 pounds, Seymour defeated Lane in a 4-2 decision with a reversal in the third period and takedown.
In the 184-pound weight division, sophomore AJ Burkhart had a similar exciting ending. Down 2-1 in the final seconds, Burkhart completed a takedown of freshman Jack Wilt, winning 3-2.
The sophomore previously wrestled at 157 and looked to cement his place on the team in a weight division of 27 pounds heavier last season.
The night continued with more freshman wins. At 149 pounds freshman Manzona Bryant IV had a convincing victory, defeating junior Jimmy Hoffman in a 10-3 decision. Bryant’s win marked his first time competing in Grace Hall with fans.
“It was an eye-opening experience and exciting environment to be in,” Bryant said. “The night of the Brown and White dual was just a chance for my teammates and I to show what we have learned over the past months since last season.”
However, Bryant said competing against his teammates in a non-practice setting brings a different set of challenges.
Bryant said it felt weird to line up against the teammates he goes through practice with.
Freshman Max Brignola followed Bryant’s footsteps with a win against junior Paul Watkins in an 8-4 decision. Brignola finished with three takedowns against Watkins.
Wrestling as a true freshman is unique for Lehigh, but Brignola was a four-time state qualifier and two-time place-winner, which has prepared him to quickly become accustomed to Lehigh’s program.
Freshman Tyler Sung defeated freshman Patrick Edmondson in a 9-4 decision in the first of two bouts in the 157-pound weight class.
In the next bout at 157 pounds, freshman Zac Martin left the mat with a victory as he secured the win against junior JT Cooley in a 5-1 decision. Martin was able to get takedowns in the first and third periods and a second period rideout to claim his victory.
The rest of the night continued with wins from both the Brown team and the White team. As the season approaches, the Mountain Hawks are preparing for their first competition against Campbell and Oregon State on Nov. 6.