New Lehigh Mountain Hawk Michael Beard (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Today, 2021 NCAA All-American Michael Beard announced the destination of his transfer. Beard, a Pennsylvania native, is leaving Penn State and will stay in the Commonwealth and wrestle for Lehigh. A top-15 recruit in the Class of 2018, Beard took a grayshirt year before enrolling and redshirting for Penn State in 2019-20. During the abridged 2021 season, Beard went 10-6, placing sixth in the Big Ten and seventh at the NCAA Championships.
In the 2021 campaign, Beard notched wins over notables like Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming), Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State), Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State) and Thomas Penola (Purdue). With Max Dean transferring into State College, prior to the 2021-22 season, Beard only saw action in one dual meet this past season. Beard finished the year with an 8-2 record and was a runner-up at the Southern Scuffle. Dean went on to win an NCAA title and returns in 2022-23.
Three-time Big Ten runner-up, Eric Schultz (Nebraska), was responsible for Beard's only regulation loss of the year. The other came via injury default in the first period of the Scuffle finals. Along the way, Beard downed two eventual NCAA qualifiers, Cam Caffey (Michigan State) and JT Brown (Army West Point).
For the immediate future, Beard fits in perfectly with the Lehigh lineup. The Mountain Hawks boasted a talented team that was besieged by injuries in 2021-22. Their starter at 197 was freshman JT Davis, who went 13-17. Also in the pipeline is Caden Rogers (Malvern Prep, PA), the #68 overall senior in the Class of 2022. Rogers projects at 197 lbs, as well. Beard could have as many as three years of eligibility remaining as he was a redshirt freshman during the 2021 Covid year.
Beard will make a deep EIWA 197 lb class even tougher. The returning champion, Louie DePrez (Binghamton), was an All-American in 2021, while Luke Stout (Princeton), Jacob Cardenas (Cornell), and Jake Koser (Navy) were top-20 seeds at nationals. Penn's Cole Urbas is another qualifier that returns.
The 2022-23 Mountain Hawks could feature a lineup with Beard alongside three past EIWA champions: Jaret Lane (125), Malyke Hines (133), and Josh Humphreys (157). NCAA All-American Jordan Wood was the only one of the seven 2022 national qualifiers that is not expected to return.