I recently talked with Coach Santoro and Coach Wirnsberger to get an idea of their actual lineups. As expected early in the season there will be a few game time decisions. Both teams have boys coming back from injuries, closely matched teammates and depending on the closeness of the match this will affect who gets the nod. Two seasons ago #22 ranked Lehigh travelled to Bucknell and was upset in a close match 18-17 on criteria #2, injury default at 285lbs.
The series record is 9-1 in favor of Lehigh. Last season Lehigh finished 2nd and Bucknell took 4th at the EIWA Championships. Lehigh comes into the season ranked between 12-5, with the best and deepest team they have had in years. The pressure on the starters at 141, 174 and 285 should ensure motivated wrestling. This is the first of a season of tough opponents for the Mountain Hawks. For Bucknell another upset over Lehigh could change the energy around this program on the rise and create a legitimate rivalry between the schools. Did Bucknell over achieve at last year’s EIWAs? I don’t think so. Either way Coach Wirnsberger has brought the Bison program back from hiatus to relevance in the EIWA, can he take the Bison to the next level?
If you’re near Lewisburg Friday make sure that you get there for the 7pm fracas.
125 – Darian Cruz (Lehigh) AA over Paul Petrov (Bucknell) 3rd EIWA. Petrov is 2-0 versus Cruz and won a 6-5 t.b. match between the two at the dual, 2 years ago. Petrov’s game plan, scrambling style and cardio was/is(?) a bad matchup for Cruz on the road early in the season. Petrov wins in OT.
133 – Mason Beckman (Lehigh) AA vs. Grim Gonzalez (Bucknell) 5th EIWA. I’ll take Beckman with at least a major decision opening it up way more than he did at the All Star Classic.
141 – Randy Cruz or Cortlandt Schuyler (Lehigh) game time decision vs. Tyler Smith (Bucknell). Smith is tough he worked his way though the wrestle backs to take 3rd at last years EIWA’s. This is a toss up for me. Cruz is just coming back from an injury. Who does Coach Santoro put in the lineup? I’ll take Smith in a close one.
149 – Victor Lopez (Bucknell) 4th EIWA vs.
Laike Gardner (Lehigh). Lopez also worked his way back through the EIWA wrestle backs to take 3rd losing twice to Drexel’s funky Matt Cimato. Gardner won a close wrestle off over Drew Longo, who knows what the real separation is between these two. Gardner beat Lopez in the dual two years ago 3-2. Who’s improved more? Lopez at home, close.
157 – Mitch Minotti (Lehigh) vs. Zach Kelly or Logan Kiren (Bucknell). This will be the first of Coach Wirnsberger’s game time decisions. Kelly, the true freshman, won the wrestle-off last week. Either way facing 2x All American Minotti won’t be easy. Minotti had a hard time getting to his offense at the NWCA, I don’t think that will be an issue in this match. Minotti wins with a fall or regular decision. I’m not sure his gas tank is ready for a major or tech.
165 – Rob Schlitt (Bucknell) versus Ryan Preisch. Can Schlitt an average EIWA senior out game plan Preisch a talented and tough sophomore? Preisch had some very good finishes at ‘Opens” last season against some tough competition. I think that he’ll be to much for Schlitt.
174 –Elliot Riddick or Ben Hass (Lehigh) versus Rustin Barrick or Nick Stephani (Bucknell). Both coaches making game time decisions at this weight. Lehigh looks to be the favorite. Bucknell will bump up one of their wrestlers.
184 – Nate Brown (Lehigh) versus Rustin Barrick or Nick Stephani (Bucknell). Brown didn’t really get to his offense at the NWCA but he’s the clear favorite here.
Tom Sleigh (Bucknell) 5th EIWA is coming back from injury and unexpected but who knows.
197 – John Bolich (Lehigh) versus Tyler Greene or Rory Bonner (Bucknell). Greene won the wrestle off convincingly. The question is can Bolich create offense? If he does Lehigh is the heavy favorite.
285 – Joe Stolfi or Chuck Boddy (Bucknell) 2nd EIWA versus Max Wessell (Lehigh). Stolfi is still coming back from an injury suffered at nationals last year. If it’s close at this point in the match I could see Bucknell sending out Stolfi who has beaten Max “Charles Atlas” Wessell before.
On paper it should be almost all Lehigh but that’s why they wrestle the matches. The outcome will depend on how aggressively the Lehigh wrestlers compete. If Bucknell starts well does it turn the tide of the upper weight? I’ve picked the last 2 national title winners but haven’t been able to get closer than 5 points on a dual prediction. I’m betting on Lehigh opening it up 29-6.