Back on Top: Lehigh Crowns Five Individual Champs to Claim EIWA Title
March 04, 2018


HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Lehigh's 35th EIWA team championship was sealed with a pin. Needing a victory from junior Ryan Preisch to clinch their first title since 2006, the Mountain Hawks clinched the title in style as Preisch used a half nelson to pin Cornell's Max Dean in 4:31 Sunday at Hofstra's Mack Sports Complex.

The Mountain Hawks went 5-for-5 in finals bouts, claiming five individual champions for the first time since 2003, and after leading Cornell by a slim margin for most of the two-day event, it was the fourth individual title that sealed the deal. Lehigh finished with 164.5 points, to defeat the Big Red by 18.5 points.

Senior Darian Cruz won his third consecutive EIWA title at 125, while junior Scott Parker won his second straight at 133. Sophomore Jordan Kutler (174) and freshman Jordan Wood (285) also claimed individual titles. The Mountain Hawks placed nine wrestlers and qualified nine for the NCAA Championships in Cleveland.

3/4/2018 Wrestling at 2018 EIWA ChampionshipsWrestling at 2018 EIWA Championships Wrestling at 2018 EIWA Championships

"That was a great way to seal it," Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro said of Preisch's pin. "I'm just proud of these guys. They've worked really hard. We've wanted this for a long time. Cornell's a great team. They've done amazing things over the last decade, so we're happy about getting this one."

Lehigh also swept the major individual awards with Preisch claiming both the Coaches' Trophy (Outstanding Wrestler) and Sheridan Trophy (Most Falls in the Championship Bracket). Cruz won the Fletcher Trophy (Career Team Points Scored at EIWA Tournament), while Santoro was named Coach of the Year for the fourth time.

Remarkably, Lehigh won five finals bouts with the aid of just one takedown.

"When you get to the finals, there's a lot of game-planning going on," Santoro said. "You have to be mentally tough. You have to be really tough when you come to this tournament or the NCAA Tournament. You have to win matches that you don't feel comfortable winning and that's what a lot of our guys did today."

After a 14-1 major decision over Binghamton's Joe Nelson in the semifinals, Cruz met Noah Baughman in the first of three head-to-head finals battles between Lehigh and Cornell. A second period escape by Cruz proved to be the only points in a 1-0 decision.

Parker also had a tough battle against a Big Red foe. Tied 1-1 with Chaz Tucker through regulation and sudden victory, Parker escaped in the first half of the tiebreaker and then rode out to win 2-1. Earlier in the day, Parker posed an impressive 10-3 decision over American's Josh Terao.

"I'm happy for both those guys at the top," Santoro said. "Scott has been through a lot this year and to win this in Darian's senior year has been great for him too. Those guys got it started tonight. We wanted to win five. That was the goal, and they accomplished it."

Kutler became Lehigh's third champion with a 2-0 decision over Navy's Jadaen Bernstein. He used a strong ride to ride out the second period and escaped early in the third for the only scoring of the bout. Earlier Kutler advanced to the finals with a 9-2 win over Cornell's Brandon Womack.

Preisch posted two falls on day two, opening the day by pinning CJ LaFragola of Brown in 3:54 in the semifinals. In his finals match with Dean, Preisch scored a takedown and two point near fall to lead 4-0 after one period, then added four near fall to open the second period before flattening Dean with a lethal power half, getting the mat slap in 4:31 and sending Lehigh's team and fans into a frenzy.

"He started getting his timing back," Santoro said of Preisch. "Being out for two months is tough. He was just tenacious. He really wanted to get this done."

Lehigh's finals run concluded with a win by Wood over 10th-ranked Michael Hughes of Hofstra, the No. 1 seed. Tied 1-1 through regulation and sudden victory, Wood escaped 12 seconds into the first half of the tiebreaker and was able to keep the 285-pound Hughes down in the second half to seal the 2-1, tiebreaker win. Wood is the first Lehigh freshman to win an EIWA title since Randy Cruz in 2013 and just the second since 2003. He advanced to the finals with a 4-1 win over Columbia's Garrett Ryan in the semifinals.

Freshman Luke Karam rebounded from a 5-2 semifinal loss to Bucknell's Tyler Smith in the semifinals to win a pair of 1-0 matches in the consolations to finish third and punch his ticket to the NCAA Championships.

At 149, junior Cortlandt Schuyler secured his first NCAA berth with a fourth place finish. Schuyler fell in the semifinals but earned his trip to Cleveland with a takedown and four point near fall in sudden victory to knock off American's Michael Sprague 7-1.

Junior Gordon Wolf will return to the NCAA Championships for the second time, this time following a fifth place finish at 165. Wolf claimed his NCAA bid with a technical fall victory over Drexel's Ebed Jarrell. After a loss to Penn's May Bethea in the consolation semifinals, Wolf earned two big bonus points as we was awarded a medical forfeit win in the fifth place bout.

Freshman Chris Weiler's day started strong with a 3-0 takedown edge against top seed Ben Darmstadt of Cornell in the semifinals at 197, but a third period reversal from Darmstadt and four-point near fall gave him a 10-6 decision. Weiler dropped his next two bouts and finished sixth, but qualified yesterday for the NCAA Championships.

Two-time EIWA Champion and three-time All-American Joe Peritore '67 and the late John Harmon '59, a generous Lehigh benefactor known in particular for his support of Lehigh wrestling, who passed away in September were among the members of the EIWA Hall of Fame Class inducted prior to the start of the finals session.

Lehigh's nine automatic qualifiers will now move on to the NCAA Championships, March 15-17 at
Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Junior Ian Brown, the only Mountain Hawk EIWA entrant to not place, will learn his NCAA fate when at-large selections and brackets for the NCAA Championships are announced Wednesday.

"This was a great win tonight, but we have to look forward," Santoro said. "We want to be celebrating in two weeks with guys that are national champions and All-Americans. That's the goal for us."