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    High five: Lehigh claims fifth straight EIWA title

    BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Lehigh made it five consecutive EIWA team championships on Sunday, as the Mountain Hawks held off Cornell and Penn to win the 102nd EIWA title at Stabler Arena. The Mountain Hawks had three individual champions and scored 129 team points, 13.5 more than runner-up Cornell. The Brown and White placed wrestlers in nine of ten weight classes and qualified nine men for the upcoming NCAA Championships.

    "We had a good finish today," said head coach Greg Strobel. "We had some guys with high expectations in this tournament, but it turned out a lot of the other guys, who didn't have the accolades really stepped it up."

    Lehigh's three individual champions were seniors Cory Cooperman and Travis Frick and junior Matt Cassidy. Cooperman defeated Harvard's Max Meltzer 5-2 to win the 141 pound championship. Cooperman wins his third EIWA Championship in four tries. Frick earned his second EIWA title with a thrilling sudden victory win over Penn's Matt Herrington. Each wrestler mustered just an escape in regulation, but Frick got a hold of a leg, and scored the winning takedown 32 seconds into the first sudden victory period.

    Cassidy also needed overtime to win his title, as he scored the winning points in the second sudden victory period to upset top-seeded Jerry Rinaldi of Cornell.

    A couple of Lehigh's younger guys helped the Brown and White build a lead on Saturday, but both freshmen Matt Fisk and Trevor Chinn came up short in their finals bouts. Fisk yielded a late takedown to Cornell's Troy Nickerson, who won the battle of true freshmen 2-1 at 125. Chinn, fought a good strategic match, but fell victim to several tilts from Penn's Matt Dragon, who won 11-1.

    In the consolation rounds earlier in the day, Lehigh had two third-place finishers who automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships, and two more fourth-place finishers, who earned wild card bids to Oklahoma City.

    Derek Zinck battled back from a loss in Saturday's quarterfinals to place third, avenging his loss to Brown's Mike Savino in the process. Junior Paul Weibel won by major decision over Michael Sprigg of Army in the consolations, and then beat nationally ranked Adam LoPiccolo of American to place third at heavyweight.

    Senior Troy Letters and junior David Helfrich both won their consolation semifinal bouts, but were defeated in the third place matches. Letters continues to wrestle through a neck injury and was edged by Army's Jon Anderson 10-9. Helfrich dropped a 5-1 decision to Penn's Dustin Wiles, but both he and Letters earned wild cards, giving Lehigh its largest contingent of NCAA qualifiers under Greg Strobel.

    "These tournaments are always won in the trenches and for us to place nine and send nine to nationals is big for us," added Strobel. "We are peaking at the right time. The team has gone through a lot of adversity, but the guys who had success this weekend, will be primed for another strong showing when we get to nationals.

    American senior Muzaffar Abdurakhmanov was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler, while Letters won the Sheridan Award for most falls and the Fletcher Trophy for career team points in the EIWA Championships.

    Lehigh will send its nine qualifiers to the 2006 NCAA Championships, which will take place March 16-18 from Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.

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