In a matchup with the defending national champions on their home turf in Stillwater, Okla., Sunday afternoon, the Mountain Hawks wrestling team gave top-ranked Oklahoma State all they could handle before falling 25-12 in front of a crowd of 4,389.
The score did not accurately reflect the action, as seven of the 10 bouts were decided by three points or less. With the win, Oklahoma State improves to 17-1 (6-1) and snaps Lehigh’s (20-4, 6-0) eight-match winning streak.
The action started at 125 pounds, as Oklahoma State's Derek Stevens set the trend with a close 3-2 victory over Mario Stuart. Then at 133, Matt Ciasulli got off to a good start against two-time defending national champ Johnny Thompson with a takedown to start the first period. But Thompson came right back, reversing Ciasulli and eventually holding on for a 7-5 decision.
Cory Cooperman picked up the Mountain Hawks' first victory of the afternoon at 141, riding out the entire second period against Ronnie Delk for a 3-2 victory, making it 6-3 Oklahoma State. At 149, No. 2 Zach Esposito used six takedowns and a reversal to take a major decision over Matt Anderson, 17-7. Then at 157, Johny Hendricks got an early takedown against Derek Zinck to take the lead, with both wrestlers trading escapes the rest of the match as Hendricks held on to win 5-2.
The two featured matches of the afternoon were up next, with four undefeated wrestlers taking the mat. At 165, in a rematch of last year’s semifinals, Tyrone Lewis used a takedown and two-point near fall to hand Lehigh's Troy Letters his first-ever dual match loss, 8-5. Following that, Oklahoma State continued to press the action as No. 1 Chris Pendleton defeated No. 4 Brad Dillon 7-5, avenging another previous NCAA loss. With the losses, Dillon and Letters saw their Lehigh-best 39 and 37 consecutive dual win streaks, respectively, come to an end.
At that point Lehigh trailed 19-3, but the Mountain Hawks were not done fighting. Taking on defending national champion Jake Rosholt at 184, No. 11 Travis Frick used two third period takedowns to upset Rosholt 6-5 for a second Lehigh victory.
Feeding off that momentum, Matt Cassidy used his familiar underhooks maneuver in the second period of his match with Rusty Blackmon, pinning Blackmon in 4:29. In the final match of the afternoon, the Cowboys turned the tables as No. 13 Will Gruenwald pinned Paul Weibel in 1:13 to complete the match.
Lehigh head coach Greg Strobel was proud of his team’s effort despite the loss. “Oklahoma State had the home court advantage,” said Strobel, “and I really think that made a difference. In matches that are this close, any advantage helps, and I thought we might have won a couple more if just a few things went differently. With Letters and Dillon, those matches are always going to come down to one move, and today Oklahoma State’s guys made those moves. Maybe if we are at Grace things go differently, but I know our guys would love another crack at them in another month or so.”
With the loss, Lehigh is still one win shy of a new single-season record for dual wins. The Mountain Hawks will get their chance next weekend when they travel to Philadelphia to take on Penn and Drexel. The Penn match is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, and will be broadcast live on 1230/1160 WEEX and on Lehigh’s website at www.lehighsports.com.
Posted on Monday, February 16, 2004