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Three Team Race for the EIWA Championships at Penn



Thirty NCAA bids and the coveted EIWA team title will be on the line when the 97th Annual EIWA Championships commence this weekend at the University of Pennsylvania. The tournament is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent years as three teams have a legitimate shot at winning the championship. The tournament on paper looks to be a battle between defending champions Lehigh and co-Ivy Champions Penn and Harvard. Lehigh enters the tournament as the slight favorite but late season ending injuries might have hurt the Mountain Hawks chances of repeating. The defending champions have defeated both Penn and Harvard in dual meets but injuries to John Trenge and Brad Dillon could prove costly. However, they still have the firepower to bring the title back to Bethlehem with four returning champs in the line up. Wrestling in front of their home crowd at the Palestra should serve Penn well, as they look to win their fifth title in six years. Penn is led by Yoshi Nakamura and have all ten of their wrestlers ranked in the top six of the EIWA. The key for the Quakers to win might fall on the backs of their five true freshmen having strong performances. Fresh from winning their first Ivy title ever, Harvard would love to add the EIWA Championship to their trophy case. Harvard has eight of their ten wrestlers ranked in the top six and could have as many as five or six finalists. The Crimson will need their lower ranked wrestlers to exceed their seeds if they expect to win the championship. The importance of each of these teams to score bonus points will go a long way in deciding the title. It will also be essential for wrestlers to perform well in the consolation rounds if they want their schools to win in Philly. If any of the big three should happen to slip, Cornell and Rutgers could move up into one of the top three positions. Cornell, who was co-Ivy Champs along with Penn and Harvard, might be the dark horse of the tournament. They have seven wrestlers ranked in the conference and have the potential for three finalists. Rutgers could be the surprise of the tournament as the Scarlet Knights enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent years and have enough strong individuals that will score them a lot of points. Weight by weight preview 125lbs. This weight class will play a major role in what team wins the team title. Penn's Mason Lenhard enters the tournament as a clear favorite but Harvard's Kevin El-Hayek is close on his heels. Lenhard defeated El-Hayek 7-6 in the dual meet and an individual title by either wrestler would go a long way in helping their team win the championship. Lehigh's Mario Stuart has been wrestling well as of late and will be a major factor along with Andrew Uhrlass from Rutgers. The x-factor in this weight class could be Brown's Clinton Hicks who is returning from a knee injury. The talented freshman has a win this year over Bakerfield's #4 ranked Ruben DeLeon and has the potential to win the weight. 133lbs. Harvard could have their second finalist and first champion, as Matt Picarsic is the prohibited favorite at the weight. He has defeated all of his rivals and owns a pin over second ranked Juan Venturi of Princeton. Venturi should make it to the finals to set up the rematch with Picarsic. Navy's Jason Homestead is talented enough to challenge the top two for the championship. Other contenders at the weight include Penn's Jeff Eveleth, Columbia's Steve Popovitch and Cornell's Byron Warner. 141lbs. Matt Goldstein from Lehigh is the defending champion and will be the favorite to win again. However, Navy's Mark Conley and Princeton's Joe Clark could steal the show from Goldstein. Conley lost 6-5 to Goldstein earlier in the year and will be looking to avenge that loss. However, he and the high scoring Clark should wage an interesting semi to see who gets to the finals. Cornell's Tom Waldron has been hot as of late and could be the spoiler at the weight. Others to watch at the weight include Brown's David Dies who after some good early season wins has been struggling as of late, and Penn's Doug McGraw. McGraw is a very talented freshman who could surprise everyone but has been injured. 149lbs. Returning All-American Dave Esposito from Lehigh is looking to win a national title but he could have his hands full in repeating his EIWA title. Esposito and Harvard freshman Jesse Jantzen should meet for the third time this year in the finals. Esposito has defeated the frosh twice this season but their clashing styles could make for a very close finals match. Not to be overlooked in this weight class is two very good wrestlers in Penn's Joe Henson and Jon Forster of Rutgers. The dark horses in the weight class could be Columbia's Eric Norgaard and Cornell's Gabe Webster. 157lbs. This weight class along with 165lbs might be two of the most intriguing in the tournament. Penn's Yoshi Nakamura was ranked #2 in the country most of the year until Lehigh's Ryan Bernholz knocked him from the unbeaten ranks. The 1998 Champion Bernholz, defeated him in double OT and the re-match is highly anticipated. These two look to be the class of the weight but Cornell's Leo Urbinelli and Harvard's Max Odom might have something to say about that. Each has the skill to surprise one of the top two but will more likely be battling for third. Rutgers's Shane Engel - Folks is a tough hombre that cannot be forgotten and could slip into one of the top spots. 165lbs. The best way to decide who the favorite at this weight class might be to throw all the names in a hat and pick from there as the top four wrestlers have all defeated each other. The seeding meeting should be fun and heated at this weight class. Cornell's Clint Wattenberg is currently ranked first in the EIWA and he owns two wins over number two Chris Vitale of Lehigh. However, Wattenberg has lost to Harvard's Pat O'Donnell. Vitale has defeated O'Donnell and Penn's Tim Ortman. Ortman also lost to Wattenberg but beat O'Donnell. Seeding at this weight class might be critical in determining who will be in the finals. Outside of the top four, Princeton's Ryan Bonfiglio could play into the mix at this weight class. 174lbs. Army's Maurice Worthy enters as the only undefeated wrestler in the tournament and the nation's third ranked wrestler should walk away with his first EIWA crown. There is a group of four wrestlers who will be looking to take the championship from him. Penn's Josh Henson has been wrestling extremely well as of late and has a 10-6 win over Princeton's Greg Parker. Cornell's Jim Stanec has been having a nice season and should be the number two seed. Parker and Navy's Mark Newman should be meet in the quarters and both have the savvy to upset Worthy. The dark horse in the weight will be Rutgers' Justin Haskins. Haskins gave Worthy his closest bout when he took him to overtime rideout. 184lbs. Lehigh puts its fourth returning champ in Rob Rohn on the mat at this weight class. The returning All-American enters as a slight favorite over Harvard's Fran Volpe. The two have met three times this year with Rohn taking the first two but Volpe winning the latest match. These two should meet for the fourth time in the finals in a match that could hypothetically have a major impact on the team race. Rutgers' Tom Tannis has been having a great year and has registered several impressive wins. He could prove to be the spoiler at this weight class. Others to watch include Brown's Karl Rittger, Penn's Marcus Schontubee and Craig Cooper from Army. 197lbs. The devastating injury to Trenge has opened the door for Cornell's defending champion Corey Anderson and Penn's Mike Fickell. However, Navy's Mike Bigrigg and Rutgers' Ricardo Romero will also seriously challenge at the weight. Bigrigg has an earlier season win over Anderson but has dropped two matches to Romero. All four guys have a legitimate shot at the title. Others to watch at this weight class are John Paxton of Army and Reggie Lee of Harvard. 285lbs. This weight class is another one that is filled with its share of subplots. N
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