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Lehigh wins third straight EIWA title

Lehigh captured its third straight EIWA title (Photo/Lehigh Athletics)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- A tight team race was expected at the 116th EIWA Championships, but a strong Saturday session propelled Lehigh its third consecutive team title. The Mountain Hawks placed five wrestlers in the finals and won three individual titles Saturday at Stabler Arena to claim their 37th team championship. Lehigh scored 154 points to top second place Cornell by 34. Army West Point finished third with 112 points.

Lehigh's three individual champions were all repeat winners from last year. Sophomore Josh Humphreys (157) won his second title and added the Coaches' Trophy to his case as the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler. Senior Jordan Kutler (174) and junior Jordan Wood (285) won their third straight EIWA titles, bringing Lehigh's all-time total to 220. For leading his team to its third straight title, head coach Pat Santoro was named EIWA Coach of the Year for the fifth time.

"We kept fighting in every match for the whole seven minutes," Santoro said. "The bonus points were huge early. That gave us a lot of momentum. When someone went down, someone else stepped up, which is what you need to do in a tournament like this."

Humphreys capped a tournament in which he outscored opponents 36-3 by shutting out Princeton's Quincy Monday 7-0 in the finals. After a scoreless first period, Humphreys scored a takedown in the second period and used a tough ride on top to build riding time. Humphreys added an escape, takedown and stalling point in the third period to post his first win over Monday in three tries this season. Humphreys did beat Monday twice last season and leads the all-time series 3-2.

Earlier Saturday, Humphreys posted an impressive 8-2 win over Markus Hartman of Army, highlighted by an early takedown and four point near fall in the first period. Humphreys is the second Lehigh wrestler in the last three years to win the Coaches' Trophy, and just the second since 1998. Ryan Preisch won the award at Hofstra two years ago.

"Josh has just been getting better all season long," Santoro said. "He loves to compete. You can see that out there. Hopefully in two weeks we're doing the same thing."

Kutler became a three time EIWA champion with a 5-0 decision over Navy's Spencer Carey. He outscored his opponents 9-0 in his two victories Saturday after a pair of bonus wins Friday.

"He has just been outstanding," Santoro said of Kutler. "He has been a great leader and he has been a big part of why we're here today. Jordan just deciding to come here, and wanting to be a part of this. I'm just glad we could win it in his senior year."

Wood made it three titles in three years by knocking off top seeded Yaraslau Slauvikoski of Harvard 9-2. After a scoreless first period, Slauvikoski escaped but Wood answered with a takedown to take a 2-1 lead. After a Slauvikoski escape, Wood put the Crimson freshman in danger, getting a takedown and four point near fall to go up 8-2 after two. A third period escape provided the final point in one of Wood's most impressive performances of the season.

"That was a signature win for Jordan against a really tough opponent," Santoro said. "They might see each other again in a couple of weeks. Jordan just does everything right. We're lucky to have the Jordans on our team for the leadership they provide.

Juniors Nick Farro (133) and Chris Weiler (184) also reached the finals to spearhead Lehigh's Saturday morning surge. Farro scored a takedown in sudden victory to knock off Binghamton's Zack Trampe 4-2 in the semifinals. He faced top seed Chas Tucker of Cornell in the finals and dropped a 3-1 decision as the undefeated Tucker scored the decisive takedown 25 seconds into sudden victory. Weiler used a big third period to down Army's Noah Stewart 9-6 in the semifinals, but came up short against top seed Lou Deprez of Binghamton, dropping a 4-0 decision as the Bearcat avenged a loss to Weiler on Jan. 10.

In all, eight Mountain Hawks earned automatic berths to the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis.

Junior Brandon Paetzell was the first Lehigh wrestler to punch his ticket, with a fall over Drexel's Antonio Mininno in his first match of the day. Paetzell went 3-0 on Saturday to earn his second consecutive third place medal. He was third at 133 last year and now owns a third place finish at 125.

Junior Jake Jakobsen won a thriller by fall in the consolation quarterfinals at 197. Jakobsen faced Penn's Cole Urbas, who he had lost to by injury default on Feb. 20. After a scoreless first period, Urbas chose top and rode out Jakobsen in the second. Jakobsen returned the favor, choosing top and turning Urbas for a fall that secured a top six finish. Jakobsen ended up claiming fifth place with a 10-2 major decision over Drexel's Bryan McLaughlin.

Lehigh's eighth automatic qualifier was senior Ryan Pomrinca, who outlasted Anthony Sparacio of Binghamton 3-2 in tiebreaker 2 in the fifth place match at 141. With a NCAA berth on the line, Pomrinca and Sparacio were tied 2-2 through 10 minutes of wrestling. Pomrinca escaped in the first half of the second tiebreaker period to go up 3-2. Knowing he would likely lose on riding time if he chose bottom, Sparacio took neutral in his half of the tiebreaker but could not score on Pomrinca.

Earlier Saturday, Pomrinca was knocked off in the semifinals by Columbia's Matt Kazimir.

Sophomore Jimmy Hoffman was Lehigh's seventh semifinalist, but he dropped a 7-5 decision to Cornell's Hunter Richard. Hoffman led 1-0 after two periods but Richard came back with a takedown and four point near fall in the third to take the lead, then held off a late Hoffman charge. Hoffman settled for sixth place after two more losses Saturday and will hope for an at-large berth to become Lehigh's ninth NCAA qualifier.

Lehigh's NCAA tournament qualifiers will move on to the 90th NCAA Championships, March 19-21 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The NCAA will announce the at-large qualifiers and complete field of 330 on Tuesday March 10 and will then unveil the seeds and brackets the following day at 6 p.m.

Top Five Teams
1. Lehigh 154
2. Cornell 120
3. Army West Point 112
4. Navy 104.5
5. Princeton 100.5

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