Lions shut out Lehigh before sold-out crowd
UNIVERSITY PARK – Lehigh had six starters out of its lineup for Sunday afternoon’s dual meet against top-ranked Penn State.
So, there wasn’t going to be too much drama in a match wrestled before a sold-out crowd of 6,529 at Rec Hall and Big Ten Network cameras.
The only drama was whether the Nittany Lions would get a shutout. The Lions did run the table, picking up two falls, a technical fall, five major decisions and two decisions in a 42-0 romp over the 10th-ranked Mountain Hawks.
The Lions held a 47-0 advantage in takedowns over the now 0-3 Hawks.
“I think our guys wrestled well,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “They were finishing the periods with some hustle and trying to finish matches on top and with takedowns. We knew they had several guys out of the lineup, but I thought we wrestled well.”
“Sometimes we were just outclassed,” Lehigh coach Pat Santoro said. “They have a special team right now. In the bigger matches, we didn’t attack enough, and that was the difference.”
Lehigh was without Nick Farro at 125, eighth-ranked Scott Parker at 133, Luke Karam at 149, Kent Lane at 157, 11th-ranked Cole Walter at 165 and seventh-ranked Ryan Preisch at 184.
Asked if he’s ever been around a team with many starters out, Santoro said, “No, never. Some of them were kind of unrelated to wrestling. It’s kind of been a really strange fall.”
The Lions hiked their record to 3-0 and have outscored their first three opponents 136-6.
Dual meets usually start at 125, but a weight draw was held, so the meet started at 197, where Penn State’s top-ranked Bo Nickal rang up a 19-4 technical fall over 15th-ranked Jake Jacobson.
Fifth-ranked Anthony Cassar continues to surprise after moving up to 285 from 197. His latest conquest was a 12-3 major decision over sixth-ranked Jordan Wood. Cassar took Wood down four times en route to the major decision.
“It was always taking a little bit out of me cutting that weight down to 197, so I feel like I have a little bit more pop in my strength, power and speed,” Cassar said. “I’m a little bit more true to myself up at heavyweight.”
“We thought that would be a lot closer match,” Santoro said, “but that was pretty special the way Cassar wrestled. We have to make some adjustments the next time we wrestle there.”
At 125, Devin Schnupp earned his second straight win with a 6-1 decision over Luke Resnick. The crowd roared its approval when Schnupp recorded his second takedown in the third period.
“It felt real good,” Schnupp said of the fan reaction. “Our fans are great, and I definitely enjoy hearing from them.”
Freshman Roman Bravo-Young provided the move that lit up the crowd and social media when he hit a back-flip to get out of the clutches of Brandon Paetzell at 133. Bravo-Young went on to earn a 13-5 major decision.
“I wouldn’t consider that baseline defense,” Sanderson said. “I just told Cody (Cunningham) it’s a good thing they worked on that earlier in the week because it really came in handy. If Cody tried that move he’d probably just die.”
At 141, fourth-ranked Nick Lee amassed 10 takedowns in a 23-10 major decision over Ryan Pomrinca, giving the Lions a 20-0 lead at halftime.
Jarod Verkleeren, who sat out against Bucknell while Brady Berge wrestled at 149, got the call on Sunday. Verkleeren countered a Jimmy Hoffman shot with a takedown for a 4-1 lead in the third period and an eventual 5-3 victory.
“Today, Verkleeren had a scrappy match, and he had to figure it out,” Sanderson said. “You could see him figure things out as the match was going along.”
At 157, top-ranked Jason Nolf held an 11-4 lead over Josh Humphreys before hooking up a low-leg cradle and pinning Humphreys in 6:19.
Top-ranked 165-pounder Vincenzo Joseph built a 17-4 lead on Trey Cornish before cradling the Mountain Hawk for the fall in 4:47.
Mark Hall found himself in another tough bout with Jordan Kutler at 174, but the second-ranked junior second-period escape and takedown, third-period takedown and riding time advantage was enough for a 6-2 win.
“I think Kutler is a really tough wrestler,” Sanderson said. “He has great positioning and great fundamentals. They wrestled a couple times last year, and it seemed like it was a one-takedown match. So, I was glad to see Mark get two.”
Shakur Rasheed closed out the meet with an 11-2 major decision over Andrew Price at 184.
“I thought even looking back to last year that today was going to be a great match,” Sanderson said. “I’m very confident in our guys that the bigger the match the better they wrestle. They’re tested every day in practice wrestling with one another.”
197–Nickal, PS, tech. fall Jacobson, 19-4, 5:31; 285–Cassar, PS, maj. dec. Wood, 12-3; 125–Schnupp, PS, dec. Resnick, 6-1; 133–Bravo-Young, PS, maj. dec. Paetzell, 13-5; 141–Lee, PS, maj. dec. Pomrinca, 23-10.
149–Verkleeren, PS, dec. Hoffman, 5-3; 157–Nolf, PS, pinned Humphreys 6:19; 165–Joseph, PS, pinned Cornish, 4:47; 174–Hall, PS, dec. Kutler, 6-2; 184–Rasheed, PS, maj. dec. Price, 11-2.
Records: Lehigh (0-3), Penn State (3-0)