Lehigh's NCAA champion Zach Rey trips Steven Graziano of Penn on the way to a semifinal win at 285 lbs. Brooke Zumas photo
Cornell puts five in finals to lead over Lehigh after first day at EIWA Championships
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Cornell, which has won the EIWA Championships for five straight years, took a big step towards a sixth by putting five athletes in the finals after an exciting first day in Jadwin Gym.
The Big Red scored 136.5 points after the semifinals, 27.5 points ahead of second-place Lehigh, which has four finalists and 119 points.
Cornell's finalists include four No. 1 seeds: Frank Perrelli (125), two-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake (157), Steve Bosak (184) and Cam Simaz (197), plus a No. 2 seed Mike Nevinger (141).
Nevinger scored a takedown as time was running out defeat No. 3 seed Stephen Dutton of Lehigh, 6-5, a huge turn-around win that looked like it was going the other way.
"Those first two rounds, we found ways to lose when we thought it was impossible. That last round, we found ways to win, when we thought we were going down. Peaks and valleys. Fortunately, we ended on a peak. It feels a whole lot better leaving the gym like that" said Koll.
Lehigh's four finalists include defending NCAA champion and No. 2 seed Zach Rey at 285, plus No. 6 seed Shane Welch (149), No. 1 seed Brandon Hatchett (165) and No. 2 seed Robert Hamlin (184).
"We wrestled hard. Our guys came here and wanted to win the tournament. We have a lot of work to do to get that done. We have to have an exceptional day tomorrow for that to happen. Our ultimate goal is to get as many guys as we can to the NCAAs, so we can put them on the podium there" said Lehigh Coach Pat Santoro.
Lehigh has had a challenging season due to injury, finally getting its lineup back together for the last dual meet of the season. The Mountain Hawks had eight athletes and a team lead going into the finals. One of their toughest losses came at 174 pounds when No. 2 seed Nathanial Brown lost in overtime to Brown's unseeded Dave Foxen.
"We came up a little short today" said Santoro. "Three of those matches, we could have been there. We knew getting healthy was the key. They all got healthy. It wasn't an outstanding day, but it was a good day. We will take it."
Looking strong in third place is American University, with three finalists: No. 5 Matt Mariacher (141), No. 8 Stephen Tao at 149 pounds and No. 1 Ryan Flores (285). Mariacher was an EIWA champion last year, and had to beat No. 4 seed Adam Krop of Princeton and No. 1 seed Zack Kemmerer of Penn to make the finals again.
The heavyweight final will feature the nation's top two heavyweights, Flores and Rey. Last year, Flores beat Rey in the EIWA finals, but Rey came back and beat Flores in the finals of the NCAA Championships. The two have not met yet this year.
Six returning EIWA champions have reached the finals: Perrelli (125), Mariacher (141), Hamlin (184), Simaz (197), Flores (285) and Scott Winston of Rutgers (165).
It was a crazy day with many upsets, as seeded wrestlers went down in every round.
At 149 pounds, No. 6 seed Welch of Lehigh will face No. 8 seed Stephen Tao of American. That weight class saw the first two seeds go down by injury default, as No. 1 seed Mario Mason of Rutgers lost his first bout by injury to Tao, and No. 2 seed Corey Jantzen of Harvard lost in the semifinals by injury to Welch.
Another unexpected final included an unseeded wrestler, Dave Foxen of Brown, and the No. 4 seed Oscar Huntley of Navy.
The team race looks like it will be Cornell's to lose, but stranger things have happened at this tournament in the past.
"If we have five champs, I don't care if we win this thing. If we get 10 into the NCAAs, I don't care if we win. Realistically, however, the two aren't mutually exclusive" said Koll.
At Princeton, N.J., March 3, 2012
No. 1 Frank Perrelli (Cornell) vs. No. 2 Garrett Frey (Princeton)
No. 4 Aaron Kalil (Navy) vs. No. 2 Brian Ortenzio (Penn)
No. 5 Matt Mariacher (American) vs. No. 2 Mike Nevinger (Cornell)
No. 8 Stephen Tao (American) vs. No. 6 Shane Welch (Lehigh)
No. 1 Kyle Dake (Cornell) vs. No. 3 Walter Peppelman (Harvard)
No. 1 Brandon Hatchett (Lehigh) vs. No. 2 Scott Winston (Rutgers)
No. 4 Oscar Huntley (Navy) vs. unseeded Dave Foxen (Brown)
No. 1 Steve Bosak (Cornell) vs. No. 2 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh)
No. 1 Cam Simaz (Cornell) vs. No. 2 Micah Burak (Penn)
No. 1 Ryan Flores (American) vs. No. 2 Zach Rey (Lehigh)
EIWA TEAM STANDINGS
(after first day)
1. Cornell, 136.5 (5 finalists, 5 consolation)
2. Lehigh, 119 (4 finalists, 6 consolation)
3. American, 88.5, (3 finalists, 3 consolation)
4. Penn, 81 (2 finalists, 7 consolation)
5. Navy, 79.5 (2 finalists, 4 consolation)
6. Columbia 60.5 (0 finalists, 7 consolation)
7. Rutgers, 59 (1 finalist, 4 consolation)
8. Harvard, 53.5 (1 finalis, 4 consolation)
9. Army, 44 (0 finalists, 6 consolation)
10. Princeton, 39.5 (1 finalist, 3 consolation)
11. Brown, 37 (1 finalist, 3 consolation)
12. Franklin and Marshall, 27 (0 finalists, 4 consolation)
13. Bucknell, 22 (0 finalists, 3 consolation)
14. Sacred Heart, 6 (0 finalists, 1 consolation)