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|Lehigh pads lead to 10 1/2 points over Cornell after final consolation rounds at EIWA Championships|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
The Sunday morning session at the EIWA Championships is about staying alive and chasing a dream. It is the completion of the consolation brackets. Every athlete in the session has lost a match, but all were still in the hunt for a bronze medal, which gives automatic qualification for the NCAA Championships.
However, this is also a session that makes a difference in the team race, at the tournament held on Lehigh's campus in Bethlehem, Pa. Coming into the session. Lehigh was in first place with 104 points, followed by Cornell at 100.5 points. Both teams have five finalists who will score team points later in the day. Yet the athletes who are alive in the wrestle-backs could be the wrestlers who make the difference in the team title race.
Lehigh had four wrestlers in the session: Derek Zinck at 157 pounds, 2004 NCAA champion Troy Letters at 165 pounds, Dave Helfrich at 184 pounds and Paul Weibel at 275 pounds.
Cornell had four wrestlers in the session: Mike Mormile at 133 pounds, Keith Dickey at 149 pounds, Dan Miracola at 174 pounds and Zachary Hammond at 285 pounds.
The consolation quarterfinals is the round where the athletes compete to see who moves on to the bronze-medal match, and who is relegated to the fifth-place match. The winners still have the dream alive of going to the NCAA Tournament. The losers would have to catch a wildcard, but it is very unlikely.
Lehigh had a perfect consolation quarterfinal round, with Zinck, Letters, Helfrich and Weibel all winning. There was concern about Letters, not only how he might compete, but even if he might compete after the disappointment of the day before. But Letters came out and wrestled hard, winning a 4-1 match over Shawn Kitchner of Brown.
Cornell had a more difficult time, scoring just two wins from Mormile and Dickey. This made a difference in the tight team race. Lehigh moved up to 119 points, and Cornell moved up 107.5 points, stretching the Lehigh lead to 11.5 points, a jump of eight team points. The fans in the crowd from host Lehigh gave out a cheer when the official standings were announced.
"It was huge," said Strobel after the round. "It was one of those things with matchups. Cornell had to face Palmer and LoPiccolo. They weren't expected to win those. We were expected to win our four matches, and there were no upsets. However, there are still more points out there to be had."
The third and fifth place matches gave another chance for both teams to add to their scores. The first wrestler up was Mike Mormile of Cornell, who dropped an 8-5 decision to Joey Baker of Navy in the third-place bout at 133 pounds. Their next bout came at 149 pounds, where Keith Dickey of Cornell lost to Patick Simpson of Army, 10-3. Things were not improving for Cornell.
Lehigh's medal round matches started differently. Derek Zinck of Lehigh won his third-place match at 157 pounds over Michael Savino of Brown at 157 pounds, 7-3.
But at 165, the travails of Troy Letters continued in the bronze-medal match. Letters led the entire match against Jonathan Anderson of Army but seemed to lose it as the bout progressed. He seemed to be favoring his neck injury, especially in certain positions. In the closing seconds, Anderson took down Letters and put him to his back, getting two clutch back points that gave him a 10-9 victory. Letters final match on his Lehigh campus, the site of so many great victories, was a disappointing and puzzling loss.
Cornell got back a win at 174 pounds, when Dan Miracola won his fifth-place match over Chad Marzac of Army, 10-2. They finished the tournament in a strong fashion as Zachary Hammond won his fifth-place heavyweight match against Michael Sprigg of Army, 5-2.
Lehigh finished off with a loss in the third-place match at 184 pounds, Dave Helfrich losing to Dustin Wiles of Penn, 5-1. The final match of the entire session came at 285 pounds, when Paul Weibel of Lehigh scored a reversal on the buzzer to beat Adam LoPiccolo of American, 5-4, at 285 pounds.
The session ended with Lehigh at 123 points and Cornell at 112.5 points, a 10.5 point lead. The contest is not officially over, but for all intents and purposes, it will be hard to change
Cornell coach Rob Koll saw that the EIWA title hopes had faded after the consolation semifinals, and was already looking towards the next test, the NCAA Championships.
"At that point, I was concerned about getting our guys to the NCAAs," said Koll. "Our goals as a team is to win the Ivys and do well at nationals. Winning the EIWAs is not quite as high on the list, but it doesn't mean we don't want to win it."
"All of the guys we have in the finals have the ability to be All-Americans. If we get five All-Americans, nobody will remember we lost to Lehigh at the EIWAs. We have some real high end athletes in the program, but we know we had some holes as well," said Koll.
Strobel was pleased with how things went for the session.
"I was really impressed with the team," said Strobel. "I was disappointed for Troy Letters, but he had that bad neck. When he is strong, he is strong. He was considering not competing today, but for the team it is extra points. I was pleased that he scored some points, but not happy he was only fourth. Zinck did a good job, and Weibel won a big upset. So far, it is going as planned."