The atmosphere was electric and the action was fierce as Lehigh reopened Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall Friday night in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,138. All that was missing in the end was a victory, as Iowa State pulled out a 23-18 win with a dramatic pin in the final match.
In a match-up of two preseason top-10 squads, the lead changed hands five times on the night before the No. 6 Cyclones (3-0) pulled out the victory over the No. 2 Mountain Hawks.
The first match got the night off to a tremendous start at 125 pounds as Mario Stuart defeated David Nakamura 6-4 with a takedown in overtime. However, Lehigh would drop the next four matches. Fourth-ranked Zach Roberson, the highest-ranked wrestler on the Iowa State squad, dominated Matt Ciasulli to take a major decision 13-2 at 133. Then at 141, Nate Gallick broke a 1-1 tie in the third period with the only takedown of the match to defeat Cory Cooperman 3-2.
Iowa State recorded another major decision at 149, and Travis Paulson broke a 5-5 tie to score nine unanswered points and win 14-5. Then, in perhaps the biggest upset of the night, Travis Paulson defeated third-ranked Derek Zinck 6-1, scoring a takedown and a three-point near fall.
The Mountain Hawks would come roaring back, though, as top-ranked Troy Letters showed why he is the man to beat at 165 this year, pinning Grant Turner in just 1:28. Following that, senior captain Brad Dillon recorded a pin of his own over Nils Matson at 4:58, putting Lehigh back in the lead 15-14.
Iowa State answered right back however, as Kurt Backes recorded a takedown in overtime to defeat sixth-ranked Travis Frick 6-4 at 184.
Then, with Lehigh’s backs to the wall, freshman Matt Cassidy gave perhaps the best performance of the night this side of Letters and Dillon. Facing 13th-ranked Trevor Smith at 197, Cassidy recorded a takedown in the first period and then held off Smith’s counterattacks repeatedly, winning via riding time 5-4.
With Lehigh back in the lead 18-17, it all came down to the heavyweight matchup between Joe Sahl and Richard Schopf. Both wrestlers came out firing, each recording multiple takedowns and escapes in the first period. In the second period, Sahl took the lead with a takedown, but then Schopf maneuvered against him and pinned Sahl at 4:15 to give the Cyclones a thrilling 23-18 victory.
Head coach Greg Strobel had to tip his cap to the Cyclones on their victory. “I think they outwrestled us on the evening,” said Strobel. “We upset them a couple times, but they upset us at least twice as well. In the final match, Joe (Sahl) got caught trying to make the same move twice, and Schopf took advantage of it. It was very close all the way though.”
Lehigh was attempting to beat Iowa State for the second consecutive year, something the Mountain Hawks have never accomplished before. The Cyclones got their revenge from last year, when the Mountain Hawks won 21-12 in Ames.
The Mountain Hawks are back in action Wednesday, when they welcome Pittsburgh to Grace Hall. The action gets underway at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the Lehigh ticket office.
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003