BETHLEHEM, Pa. – No. 7 Lehigh will close out the dual meet season with a Saturday night dual against No. 13 Rutgers at the RAC in Piscataway, N.J. as part of the NWCA National Championship Dual Series. The Mountain Hawks qualified for the dual series with a 7-0 dual mark against EIWA opponents. Lehigh saw its 10-match winning streak come to an end with a 28-9 loss to No. 1 Penn State last Friday in front of a record crowd of 5,909 at Stabler Arena, but the Mountain Hawks bounced back on Sunday with a record-setting 54-0 shutout of Bloomsburg that featured five falls and ten bonus point wins. Rutgers improved to 15-5 with Big Ten road wins at Indiana and Purdue last weekend. Saturday's dual between border and former EIWA rivals will feature 11 ranked wrestlers and five All-Americans.
This is the first year of the NWCA National Championship Dual Series, a series of eight dual meets at eight sites matching the top eight Big Ten teams against the champions of six other conferences (ACC, Big 12, EIWA, EWL, MAC and Southern) plus two at-large teams. Lehigh qualified by way of its 7-0 dual mark against EIWA opponents this season. The Mountain Hawks participated in the NWCA National Duals five times under previous formats, including a fourth place finish last year when Lehigh defeated George Mason and eventual national champion Ohio State before falling to Missouri and Cornell. Lehigh also finished fourth in 2005 and seventh in 2001 and went 0-2 in both 1998 and 2002.
Lehigh celebrated Senior Day with a dominant 54-0 victory over Bloomsburg inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall last Sunday. The Mountain Hawks scored bonus points in every bout with five falls, two technical falls, two major decisions and a forfeit. The 54 team points were the most ever scored by Lehigh in a dual meet, surpassing the 51 scored by Lehigh in a 51-0 win over Cornell on February 21, 1986. It was also the Mountain Hawks' first shutout since a 45-0 blanking of Drexel on November 5, 2010. The ten bonus wins marked the second time this season Lehigh recorded at least eight bonus wins in a dual. The Mountain Hawks had eight in a 40-6 win at Franklin & Marshall on January 16. Prior to that dual, the last time Lehigh had eight bonus wins in a dual was November 23, 2008 when the Mountain Hawks had eight in a 41-3 rout of Princeton.
A Lehigh dual meet-record 5,909 fans packed Stabler Arena to see the Mountain Hawks battle No. 1 Penn State on February 12. The Mountain Hawks posted three victories against the high-powered Nittany Lions but saw their 10 dual win streak end by a score of 28-9. Randy Cruz, Nathaniel Brown and Max Wessellpicked up the three victories for the Brown and White. The previous Lehigh dual meet attendance record was 5,828 set on February 13, 2005 when the Mountain Hawks fell 24-9 to No. 1 Oklahoma State. Three of the top four home dual meet crowds in Lehigh history have come against rival Penn State.
The NCAA released the second of four Coaches' Panel rankings and the first RPI for the 2015-16 season on February 11. The Coaches' Panel rankings will be one of the tools used as part of the selection process to determine the qualifiers for the NCAA Championships. A panel of coaches ranked the top 33 in each weight class. Lehigh has wrestlers ranked in the top 33 in nine of ten weight classes, with minimal changes from the first rankings to the second. Wrestlers need a minimum of 17 matches to appear in the RPI. Nate Brown continues to lead the way with his No. 2 ranking at 184. Mitch Minotti (No. 8 at 157) and Max Wessell (No. 9 at 285) are also rated in the top ten by the Coaches' Panel.
Rutgers enters Saturday's dual at 15-5 overall. The 13th-ranked Scarlet Knights posted road wins at Indiana and Purdue last weekend to finish 5-4 in the Big Ten. Rutgers has five individuals ranked in the latest InterMat rankings, led by sophomore Anthony Ashnault (No. 5 at 141) and senior Anthony Perrotti (No. 7 at 165). Nine Scarlet Knights appear in the latest NCAA Coaches' Panel rankings, with 197 the only weight where Rutgers is not represented. Scott Goodale is in his ninth season as Rutgers' head coach.
The Mountain Hawks and Scarlet Knights faced six common opponents this season. Both teams defeated Cornell, Franklin & Marshall and Princeton. Lehigh defeated Minnesota and Oklahoma but lost to Nebraska, while Rutgers dropped one point decisions to both the Golden Gophers and Sooners and edged the Cornhuskers on criteria.
Lehigh has dominated the all-time series versus Rutgers, winning 42 of 44 previous duals. The Scarlet Knights snapped a 38-dual Lehigh win streak with a 17-16 triumph in 2013 in New Jersey. Rutgers' only other win in the series came by a 16-11 score on February 22, 1950 in New Jersey. Lehigh and Rutgers are meeting for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons. Rutgers left the EIWA for the Big Ten following the 2013-14 season.
Saturday's dual is set for an 8 p.m. start from the RAC in Piscataway, N.J. For fans who can't make it to the RAC, Rutgers will offer streaming video on BTN-Plus (subscription required). Lehigh will offer audio coverage on ESPN Radio of the Lehigh Valley (1230/1320/1160-AM) and ESPNLV.com beginning at 7:45 p.m.
Lehigh will shift focus towards the 112th EIWA Championships, March 5-6 at Princeton's Jadwin Gym. The Mountain Hawks will be looking to win their first EIWA title since 2006 while trying to deny Cornell a 10th straight crown. Randy Cruz will be bidding to win a third EIWA title while Mason Beckman and Nathaniel Brown will have opportunities to become two-time EIWA Champions.
|Date:||February 20, 2016|
|Event:||NWCA National Championship Dual Series|
|Opponent:||No. 13 Rutgers Scarlet Knights|
|First match:||8:00 p.m.|
|Arena:||Rutgers Athletic Center (8,000)|
|Lehigh's Record:||13-2 overall, 6-0 EIWA|
|Rutgers' Record:||15-5 overall, 5-4 Big Ten|
|Series:||Lehigh leads 42-2|
|Streak:||Lehigh won the most recent meeting|
|Radio:||ESPN Radio of the Lehigh Valley (1230/1320/1160) beginning at 7:45 p.m. with Steve Lomangino and Gary Brownell|
|Internet broadcast:||Video at BTN-Plus
Audio at ESPNLV.com
|Behind enemy lines:||http://www.scarletknights.com/|