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Lehigh rides fast start to 25-13 win at Cornell

ITHACA, N.Y -- No. 6 Lehigh increased its dual win streak to nine, winning six of ten bouts in a 25-13 win over EIWA rival and No. 15 Cornell Saturday at the Friedman Wrestling Center. The Mountain Hawks capitalized on the Big Red being without both of their No. 1 ranked wrestlers, winning the first four weight classes and scoring bonus points in four of their six victories.

The win, Lehigh's first over Cornell since 2011 and first in Ithaca since 2004, improves the Mountain Hawks' record to 11-1 overall and 6-0 against EIWA opponents. Cornell falls to 3-4 overall and 3-1 in the EIWA.

"Overall we wrestled really well," Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro said. "There were a couple of matches we could've wrestled a little better; 165 was a tough match for us. We were a little beat up coming into the match. We got beat up a little during the match. That was a tough one for us, but overall the guys wrestled pretty well."

Sophomore Darian Cruz helped the Mountain Hawks to a fast start with a 12-3 major decision over Dalton Macri at 125. After a scoreless first period, Cruz hit a roll-through tilt for four near fall points in the second and added three takedowns in the third period.

"Darian's had great third periods," Santoro said. "He's been putting the pace on early. When he doesn't score early he usually scores late. He's continued to do this and has been fun to watch. We're looking for big things from him.

Lehigh's lead grew to 10-0 after 133 as the Big Red forfeited to senior Mason Beckman. Top-ranked Nahshon Garrett was unable to compete due to injury.

Junior Randy Cruz made it three straight wins for Lehigh with a 4-0 decision over Mark Grey at 141. Cruz scored a takedown late in the first period and escaped in the second before riding out the third period.

At 149, junior Laike Gardner won a wild 8-7 decision over Joey Galasso to give the Mountain Hawks a 16-0 lead after four bouts. Gardner had to rally from an early 4-0 hole after giving up an early takedown and two point near fall. Gardner battled back with two first period takedowns of his own including one at the buzzer. Tied at 6-6 late in the third, Gardner scored a takedown on the edge with 12 seconds remaining which held up.

"He just keeps wrestling," Santoro said of Gardner. "That's Laike. He's just a tough kid. Mentally tough. He keeps wrestling for seven minutes and that's what won the match tonight."

Cornell battled back to win the next three weight classes to get within 16-0. At 157 Dylan Palacio won an 8-5 decision over freshman Ian Brown. Palacio scored takedowns in the first and third periods and scored a key reversal after a Brown takedown.

Duke Pickett avenged a loss to freshman Ryan Preisch at the Southern Scuffle with a 5-2 win at 165, which gave the Big Red back-to-back victories. Pickett scored the only two takedowns, including the go-ahead score in the third period.

At 174, Brian Realbuto capped the Cornell run with an 11-0 major decision over junior Elliot Riddick.

In addition to Garrett, Cornell was without top-ranked Gabe Dean at 184 as the Big Red bumped up Jon Jay Chavez to face senior Nathaniel Brown, who gave Lehigh some cushion with a 16-0 technical fall in 4:23. Brown lead 6-0 after one period after a takedown and four point near fall. In the second he added two more four point near falls and a two pointer to close out the match.

Senior John Bolich dropped a 3-1 decision to Owen Scott at 197 after giving up a takedown in sudden victory, but the lack of bonus points for Cornell clinched the dual for Lehigh.

In the final bout of the dual senior Max Wessell posted a strong 14-6 major decision over Jeremy Sweany at 285.

"We need to keep doing the same thing we've been doing every week," Santoro said. "Obviously it's a big win over a conference rival. We really have to get healthy. There's a few guys we still need to get back. American's in two weeks. They have a lot of ranked wrestlers. Seeding implications will be big. This next week will be about getting healthy and the second one will be about getting ready for American."

The Mountain Hawks will be off from competition next weekend and will return to action when they host American inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall on Saturday February 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at LehighTickets.com or by calling 610-7LU-GAME during normal business hours.

Results:
125 - Darian Cruz (Lehigh) major dec. Dalton Macri (Cornell) 12-3
133 - Mason Beckman (Lehigh) won by forfeit
141 - Randy Cruz (Lehigh) dec. Mark Grey (Cornell) 4-0
149 - Laike Gardner (Lehigh) dec. Joey Galasso (Cornell) 8-5
157 - Dylan Palacio (Cornell) dec. Ian Brown (Lehigh) 8-5
165 - Duke Pickett (Cornell) dec. Ryan Preisch (Lehigh) 5-2
174 - Brian Realbuto (Cornell) major dec. Elliot Riddick (Lehigh) 11-0
184 - Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh) tech fall Jon Jay Chavez (Cornell) 16-0, 4:23
197 - Owen Scott (Cornell) dec. John Bolich (Lehigh) 3-1, sv
285 - Max Wessell (Lehigh) major dec. Jeremy Sweany (Cornell) 14-6
Officials - Gary Kessel and T.J. Fraher

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