|Lehigh has three champions and captures EIWA team title for the fifth straight year|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Lehigh won the team title at the EIWA Championships held in Bethlehem, Pa. with 129 points, ahead of runner-up Cornell with 114.5 points and Penn with 113 points. It was the fifth straight time that Lehigh has won the EIWA title, an impressive streak in such a competitive conference.
Individual champions for the Mountain Hawks were Cory Cooperman at 141 pounds, Travis Frick at 174 pounds and Matt Cassidy at 197 pounds. It was Cooperman's third EIWA title, while Frick won his second career conference title.
Cooperman beat Max Meltzer of Harvard, 5-2 in the finals. Frick stopped Matt Herrington of Penn, 3-1 in overtime. Cassidy upset Jerry Rinaldi of Cornell, 4-2, in overtime.
Coach Greg Strobel noted how his team responded after some of their leaders were defeated early in the tournament
"Normally, Derek Zinck and Troy Letters are our mainstays, but they faultered Saturday. It was good how they wrestled back. The team was asking, can we do this? We said yes. We have to outwrestle everybody. It was impressive having three champions. Cassidy's win was outstanding. Rinaldi has only been beaten a few times all year."
Strobel and his athletes now look ahead to the NCAA Championships in two weeks in Oklahoma City.
"A few of our guys need to recover for the nationals. We are sending nine athletes, the most for my Lehigh teams. The goal remains the same, winning All-American honors and national titles," said Strobel.
Troy Nickerson of Cornell at 125 pounds was the only EIWA champion for the team, which dropped their four other finals matches. Nickerson won a battle of true freshmen, beating Matt Fisk of Lehigh, 2-1.
Freshmen winners were Nickerson, plus Matt Dragon of Penn at 149 pounds and Andrew Flanagan of Harvard at 157 pounds. Dragon scored a major decision over Trevor Chinn of Lehigh, 11-1. Flanagan won by injury default when Dustin Manotti of Cornell was knocked out 12 seconds into the bout.
Winning his second straight EIWA title was Muzaffar Abdurakmanov of American, who won the title at 165 pounds and was named Outstanding Wrestler. He defeated Steve Anceravage of Cornell, 9-3 in the finals.
Also winning a second career EIWA title was Matt Valenti of Penn at 133 pounds, who was a 2004 conference champion at 125 pounds. Valenti beat Robbie Preston of Harvard in the finals. Preston was the 2005 EIWA champion at 125 pounds.
In a battle of the top two wrestlers in the nation, No. 1 Josh Glenn of American defeated No. 2 Joe Mazzurco of Cornell, 4-0 at 184 pounds. Last year, Mazzurco was an EIWA champion at 174 pounds and Glenn was second at 184 pounds.
The other individual champion was Bode Ogunwale of Harvard who beat Tanner Garrett of Navy), 3-2, in overtime in the second set of rideouts.
"I told my guys all year long that the nationals are all that matter. They took me literally today," joked Cornell coach Rob Koll. "Manotti got knocked out. They wouldn't let him continue if he wanted to. Nickerson had a tough match. The kid frustrated him and slowed him down, but he came out on top. Rinaldi can beat anybody, but when he wrestles like today, he can lose to anybody. Mazzurco had a great match with Glenn. Hopefully, they will meet again in the national finals."
"I was proud of how our guys competed," said Penn head coach Zeke Jones. "The kids battled hard. We almost snuck past Cornell. It was a learning experience. We will now go to the NCAAs to compete. Our guys are focused on the prize, the NCAAs in Oklahoma City."
Navy was fourth, Harvard placed fifth and Army placed sixth in the final standings in the 13-team tournament.
The top three in each weight class qualified for the NCAAs, and EIWA coaches also added the following wildcards: 125 - William Simpson (Army, 4th); 133 - Michael Mormile (Cornell, 4th); 141 - Sal Tririco (Columbia, 4th); 141 - Steve Adamcsik (Rutgers, 5th); 149 - Keith Dickey (Cornell, 4th); 149 - John Cox (Navy, 5th); 157 - Michael Savino (Brown, 4th); 165 - Troy Letters (Lehigh, 4th); 174 - Matt Stolpinski (Navy, 4th); 174 - Dan Miracola (Cornell, 5th); 184 - Louis Caputo (Harvard, 4th); 184 - David Helfrich (Lehigh, 4th); 197 - Charles Pogue (Navy, 4th); 285 - Adam LoPiccolo (American, 4th)