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Kutler claims title at 157; Mountain Hawks finish third at Southern Scuffle

By Lehigh Sports Information , 01/03/17, 12:15PM EST

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Lehigh freshman Jordan Kutler won the 157-pound title to lead the Mountain Hawks at the 2017 Southern Scuffle, presented by Compound Clothing, which wrapped-up Monday night at McKenzie Arena. Kutler went 4-0 across the two-day tournament, knocking off the top two seeds at 157 on Monday to claim the title.

Kutler was one of two finalists for the Mountain Hawks, who finished with seven place-winners. As a team, Lehigh enjoyed its second straight top-three finish at the Scuffle, securing 124.5 points to finish in third place. Despite having one fewer place winner compared to last year, Lehigh surpassed its 2016 point total by 20 points.

Oklahoma State dominated the field, with four champions, seven finalists and 198 points to claim the team title. A win from Olympic bronze medalist J'den Cox lifted Missouri (126 points) past Lehigh for second place. Minnesota finished in fourth place, 6.5 points behind Lehigh, while Northern Iowa finished fifth with 87.5 points.

"It was a good tournament overall," Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro said. "Everybody wrestled pretty hard. We learned a lot about ourselves. Some guys had some gut-checks but they came through. We have a lot to work on and a lot to build off of. We've got a couple weeks now to recover from this tournament and get the guys ready for a big stretch coming up in January."

In Monday afternoon's semifinals, Kutler won a scramble for a late takedown to defeat Missouri's Joey Lavallee 3-1.  In the finals, Kutler met top seed Joe Smith of Oklahoma State and once again used his scrambling pick up a victory. Tied 1-1 late in the third period, Kutler scrambled into a takedown in the final 25 seconds and added a four point near fall to defeat Smith 7-1. He becomes Lehigh's second-ever Southern Scuffle champion, joining Cory Cooperman, who won at 141 in December of 2005.

"Kutler is just really solid," Santoro said. "He's a great position wrestler. He kept moving forward and just wore opponents down. He won a lot of matches in the third period."

Kutler was joined in Monday night's finals by sophomore Scott Parker, who continued his impressive early season run at 133 with a third period pin of Northern Iowa's sixth-seeded Josh Alber to earn a finals matchup with top seed Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State. Brock led 4-2 early, but Parker was able to turn Brock for two near fall to tie the match at 4-4. In doing so, Parker suffered an injury and was unable to continue, giving Brock the injury default win.

"He was wrestling great and getting stronger every match," Santoro said of Parker. "He had just tied the match up right before the injury. We'll have to look at the video and evaluate him over the next few weeks but he had a great tournament and got stronger as it went on."

Along with Kutler and Parker, sophomore Ryan Preisch entered Monday's action still alive in the championship bracket. The No. 5 seed at 174, Preisch met Penn State's Mark Hall, last year's top recruit and a junior world freestyle champion, in the semifinals. Things were looking up for Preisch who led 3-1 in the third period, thanks to a second period takedown, but Hall came back and hit Preisch with a cement mixer, to rally for a win by fall at the 6:29 mark. Hall went on to win the title at 174, while Preisch bounced back nicely, winning by technical fall in the consolation semifinals and then building a sizeable lead before defeating Ethan Ramos of North Carolina 14-7 to claim third place.

Junior Darian Cruz bounced back from a quarterfinal loss Sunday night to go 4-0 on Monday and claim third place at 125. Cruz's day began with a close 4-3 decision over Eli Hale of Oklahoma State. A second period pin of Missouri's Barlow McGhee produced two bonus points in the consolation quarterfinals. After beating Stanford's Gabe Townsell in the consolation semifinals, Cruz bested Edinboro's Sean Russell for the second time this season, using a third period escape and riding time advantage to prevail 2-1.

At 149, senior Laike Gardner needed a third period comeback, scoring a takedown and two point near fall late to defeat Navy's Corey Wilding 5-3 just to reach the podium. Following an impressive 16-4 major decision in the consolation quarterfinals, Gardner finished his tournament with a pair of rematches from the first semester. In the consolation semifinals, Gardner faced Pat Lugo of Edinboro, who defeated Gardner for the second time this season, 6-4 the final. That dropped Gardner into the fifth place bout, where he posted his second win this season over Drexel's EIWA champion Matt Cimato, this time using a four-point third period to break a 2-2 tie in a 6-2 decision.

Lehigh began Monday's second day with eight wrestlers alive in consolations, including three wrestlers at 165. Senior Mitch Minotti was slated to wrestle junior Drew Longo, but after wrestling five bouts on Sunday, Minotti withdrew from the tournament, allowing Longo to place for the second straight year. After finishing eighth at 157 in 2016, Longo took eighth at 165 this time around.

Freshman Cole Walter was the only one of Lehigh's three 165-pounders not to earn a seed, but Walter posted the top finish, taking fifth place. In the fifth round of consolations, Walter defeated Forrest Przybysz of Appalachian State, 3-2. He then became the only Mountain Hawk to defeat N.C. State's Chad Pyke (who beat Minotti on Sunday and pinned Longo in seventh place match), earning a 3-2 decision in the consolation quarterfinals. After dropping his consolation semifinal bout, Walter came back to defeat Keilan Torres of Northern Colorado 5-2 in the fifth place match.

"We're so deep at some weights but still thin at some other weights," Santoro said. "You can't have a great team without great depth and you can't have a great team without great people who push each other every day and are buying in to helping each other get better. You don't find that in a lot of programs but it has been like that the last two years here."

Seniors Randy Cruz and Doug Vollaro and freshman Paul Dunn were all eliminated in the fifth round of consolations, where a victory would have secured a spot on the podium.

Cruz dropped a 3-1 decision to Minnesota's Tommy Thorn at 141, with a first period takedown proved to be the difference.

Vollaro took on No. 7 seed Billy Miller of Edinboro at 285 and like in their dual meeting on Nov. 19, Miller scored a takedown in the second sudden victory period to win 4-2.

Dunn went 2-2 with a fall as Lehigh's lone scorer at 184, but dropped his fifth round consolation 13-2 to sixth seed Bryce Carr of Chattanooga.

"We didn't really know what to expect coming in," Santoro said. "We had finals and then we sent the guys home for a little bit. It was a tough two weeks but for the most part everybody kept themselves ready leading into this tournament and we performed well. We have some time now to look at some things and try to get better and we have personnel that wants to get better."

The Mountain Hawks will take this coming weekend off and will return to action with a pair of road duals against EIWA opponents next weekend. Lehigh will visit Navy on Friday, Jan. 13 and will then head to Washington, D.C. to face American the following night. The Navy dual is set for a 7:30 p.m. start, while the American dual will begin at 7 p.m.

125 – No. 2 Darian Cruz – 6-1, 3rd
Fifth round consolation: dec. Eli Hale (Okla. St.) 4-3
Consolation quarterfinal: Fall No. 3 Barlow McGhee (Missouri) 4:10
Consolation semifinal: dec. Gabe Townsell (Stanford) 5-1
Third place match: dec. No. 4 Sean Russell (Edinboro) 2-1

133 – No. 2 Scott Parker – 4-1, 2nd
Semifinal: Fall No. 6 Josh Alber (UNI) 6:22
Final: L by injury default No. 1 Kaid Brock (Okla. St.) 5:24

141 – No. 4 Randy Cruz – 5-2, DNP
Fifth round consolation: L by dec. No. 8 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) 3-1

149 – No. 4 Laike Gardner – 6-2, 5th place
Fifth round consolation: dec. Corey Wilding (Navy) 5-3
Consolation quarterfinal: major dec. No. 7 Matt Zovistoski (App. St.) 16-4
Consolation semifinal: L by dec. No. 3 Pat Lugo (Edinboro) 6-4
Fifth place match: No. 6 Matt Cimato (Drexel) 6-2

157 – No. 3 Jordan Kutler – 4-0, 1st place
Semifinal: dec. No. 2 Joey Lavallee (Missouri) 3-1
Final: dec. No. 1 Joe Smith (Okla. St.) 7-1

165 – No. 2 Mitch Minotti – 4-1, DNP
Fifth round consolation: medical forfeit to No. 8 Drew Longo (Lehigh)

165 – No. 8 Drew Longo – 3-3, 8th place
Fifth round consolation: W by medical forfeit No. 2 Mitch Minotti (Lehigh)
Consolation quarterfinal: L by dec. No. 4 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) 4-2
Seventh place match: L by fall Chad Pyke (NC State) 3:19

165 – Cole Walter – 6-2, 5th place
Fifth round consolation: dec. Forrest Przybysz (App. St.) 3-2
Consolation quarterfinal: dec. Chad Pyke (NC State) 3-2
Consolation semifinal: L by dec. No. 5 Bryce Steiert (UNI) 8-3
Fifth place match: dec. Keilan Torres (No. Colo.) 5-2

174 – No. 5 Ryan Preisch, 5-1, 3rd place
Semifinal: L by fall Mark Hall (Penn St.) 6:29
Consolation semifinal: tech fall Connor Bass (Duke) 16-1, 4:07
Third place match: dec. No. 3 Ethan Ramos (N. Carolina) 14-7

184 – Paul Dunn – 2-2, DNP
Fifth round consolation: L by major dec. No. 6 Bryce Carr (Chattanooga) 13-2

285 – Doug Vollaro – 3-2, DNP
Fifth round consolation: L by dec. No. 7 Billy Miller (Edinboro) 4-2, sv2