BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh wrestling team hung tough with top-ranked and three-time defending national champion Penn State, but the Nittany Lions won six of ten bouts to claim a 22-12 decision Sunday afternoon at Stabler Arena. The Mountain Hawks actually led 9-8 at intermission behind three one-point decisions, but the Nittany Lions won four of the final bouts on the night to post their fourth straight win over Lehigh.
"We just got beat by a better team today," said Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. "They really controlled the tempo. We backed out of bounds a lot. Those are things we have to address. We have to get into better positions. Those are little things we have been working on but unfortunately not enough time to correct them against Penn State.
He continued, "At the end of the day we have an opportunity to wrestle the best team in the country. We wanted to come out on fire with guns blazing. Some guys did that but a lot didn't."
Penn State claimed the opening bout when third-ranked Nico Megaludis won by technical fall over freshman Darian Cruz at 125. Megaludis broke the match open with three takedowns and a three point near fall in the second period.
Lehigh went on to win three of the next four bouts. Sophomore Mason Beckman started fast with an early takedown against Jimmy Gulibon at 133 and built a considerable amount of riding time. Gulibon battled back with a third period takedown to take a 4-3 lead before Beckman escaped and scored a takedown with 15 seconds remaining. Gulibon reversed in the final seconds but a 2:47 riding time advantage gave Beckman a 7-6 win and put the Mountain Hawks on the board.
The Nittany Lions extended their lead to 8-3 after Zain Retherford won a 10-4 decision over sophomore Laike Gardner at 141.
Freshman Mitch Minotti, an Easton grad, posted his first dual meet win, downing Zach Beitz at 149. Minotti conceded the first takedown but bounced back with one in the first period to lead 3-2 after one. A second period escape gave Minotti a 4-2 lead and after a late stalling point he held on to win 4-3.
Senior Joey Napoli provided Lehigh with that 9-8 lead going into intermission with a 4-3 decision over James Vollrath at 157. Napoli and Vollrath traded reversals in the second period with Napoli then escaping to lead 3-2. Vollrath got in on a shot late in the period and Napoli was penalized for an illegal head scissors which tied the bout at 3-3 going into the third. Vollrath chose down in the third period but Napoli proceeded to ride him out for the entire two minutes, gaining the deciding point on a 1:50 riding time advantage.
Penn State reclaimed the lead with wins at 165 and 174 as top-ranked David Taylor won a 20-7 major decision over freshman Brian Brill and third-ranked Matt Brown held off freshman Elliot Riddick 8-5. Riddick was competitive against the returning NCAA finalist scoring a quick takedown off the whistle after a restart in the first period.
Freshman Zach Diekel delivered Lehigh's final win of the dual with a 9-6 decision over James Frascella at 184. Diekel gave up the first takedown late in the first period but battled back from there scoring one in the second and three in the third to bring the Mountain Hawks within 15-12.
Morgan McIntosh clinched the dual for Penn State at 197 as his 10-2 major decision over sophomore John Bolich put the Nittany Lions up by seven. Penn State also claimed the final bout as Jon Gingrich scored two third period takedowns to beat freshman Doug Vollaro 5-2.
"Seven minutes is not a long time," Santoro said. "You want to be able to wrestle and enjoy it. You can't think about wins and losses. There was a match or two we thought about losing and it looked like it. That's not the style we want our guys wrestling. We'll grow from it. We made a big jump from a week ago and we need to make another big jump before the Pittsburgh match next week."
The Mountain Hawks will close out their four match homestand Friday night when they host Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. Tickets can be purchased any time online at LehighTickets.com or by calling 610-7LU-GAME during normal business hours.
Penn State, Lehigh - Bout-by-bout results:
125 – Nico Megaludis (PSU) tech fall Darian Cruz (Lehigh) 19-4, 6:48
133 – Mason Beckman (Lehigh) dec. Jimmy Gulibon (PSU) 7-6
141 – Zain Retherford (PSU) dec. Laike Gardner (Lehigh) 10-4
149 – Mitch Minotti (Lehigh) dec. Zach Beitz (PSU) 4-3
157 – Joey Napoli (Lehigh) dec. James Vollrath (PSU) 4-3
165 – David Taylor (PSU) major dec. Brian Brill (Lehigh) 20-7
174 – Matt Brown (PSU) dec. Elliot Riddick (Lehigh) 8-5
184 – Zach Diekel (Lehigh) dec. James Frascella (PSU) 9-6
197 – Morgan McIntosh (PSU) major dec. John Bolich (Lehigh) 10-2
285 – Jon Gingrich (PSU) dec. Doug Vollaro (Lehigh) 5-2
Attendance – 4,773
Referee – Nathan Chatman