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Lehigh leads Cornell by 3.5 points after first day at EIWA Championships

After the first session, it looked like a three horse race, but after the semifinals, it seems that national powers Lehigh and Cornell will slug it out for the team title at the EIWA Championships held in Bethlehem, Pa.

Lehigh is in first place with 104 points, followed by Cornell at 100.5 points. Penn stands in third place with 85.5 points, probably a bit to far away from the lead. Lehigh and Cornell have each placed five athletes into the finals, while Penn put three wrestlers in the championship match.

Included in the semifinals were some key matches between athletes from the top three teams. In the matches that featured these teams in the round, Lehigh went 3-1, Cornell went 2-1 and Penn went 0-3.

"You win this tournament in the trenches," said Lehigh coach Greg Strobel, who expects that the wrestle-back rounds on Sunday morning may decide the team title. "It may come down to the finals. But somebody could put it together in the morning. I could be decided right there."

"I thought it was going to be decided in the wrestlebacks, but now maybe it will be in the finals," said Cornell coach Rob Koll. "We expect to win both of the head-to-heads in the finals with Lehigh. Last year, it went down to the last match and we lost. I'd like to return the favor this year."

Only one of the 10 top-seeded wrestlers were defeated in the semifinals, but it was a big surprise. Troy Letters of Lehigh, a 2004 NCAA champion and the top seed at 165 pounds, was defeated in the semifinals by sophomore Steve Anceravage of Cornell, the No. 4 seed, 5-3.

The key move in the match came with Letters on top in the first period, when Anceravage caught Letters leg and twisted back into him in an unorthodox manner, scoring a reversal and two points for backpoints to take a lead which he never relinquished. Letters, a senior competing at Lehigh Univ. for the final time in his career, was going for his fourth EIWA Championships title. He had missed a number of weeks this season with injury.

"Steve is in his first year, and he has beaten some great kids," said Koll. "We thought we'd have a chance. We knew Letters was out and might not be sharp. You have to give credit to Steve. He really wrestled well. He is capable of becoming an All-American if he wrestles like he did today."

Strobel indicated that Letters challenges in the match were both physical and psychological. He said that it was difficult to see such a great competitor to have this performance as a senior in his own gymnasium.

"The first takedown he got hurt," said Strobel. "After that, I don't know where his mind was. It wasn't there. Then he got into some bad positions. It's absolutely agonizing."

Harvard put four wrestlers into the finals, to finish in fourth with 70.5 points after day one. Navy was in fifth with 64.5 points, with Army in sixth with 58.5 points.

A semifinal summary follows:

At 125 pounds, a pair of true freshmen qualified for the finals. Top seed Troy Nickerson of Cornell scored the only takedowns to defeat William Simpson of Army, 7-1. Second seed Matt Fisk of Lehigh controlled a close match to defeat No. 3 Mike Silengo of Penn, 7-2.

At 133 pounds, with his 99th career win, No. 1 seed Matt Valenti of Penn survived a wild bout against No. 4 Joseph Baker of Navy, to emerge with an 11-8 decision. The bout was tied at 7-7 after two periods, but Valenti came on strong at the end. No. 3 Robbie Preston of Harvard jumped to an early lead and held off a late flurry by No. 2 seed Mike Mormile of Cornell for a 5-3 victory. A key to the win was Preston earning riding time.

At 141 pounds, No. 1 seed senior Cory Cooperman of Lehigh controlled the action throughout the bout to earn an 11-2 major decision over No. 4 seed Sal Tirico of Columbia. Holding his seed to make the finals was No. 2 Max Meltzer of Harvard, a 5-1 winner over No. 3 seed Steve Adamcsik of Rutgers.

At 149 pounds, a pair of freshmen will battle for the title. No. 1 Matt Dragon of Penn with his power from the top position came from behind to defeat John Cox of Navy, 11-7. Dragon turned Cox two times to his back during the second period, which turned the match around.

In a big boost for the hosts team, No. 6 Trevor Chinn scored a takedown in the third tiebreaker in overtime to defeat No. 7 Keith Dickey of Cornell, 5-3. Tied 1-1 in regulation, on escapes. In the sudden death period, there were no takedowns. Chinn scored a reversal from the bottom in the first 30-second period. Dickey got an escape for a point, then Chinn was penalized for stalling for another point, ending that set of tiebreakers tied at 3-3. It then went to another sudden death period, when Chinn hit a leg attack for a takedown and a 5-3 win.

At 157 pounds, No. 1 seed Dustin Manotti of Cornell scored numerous takedowns in a dominant fashion, scoring a 20-5 technical fall victory over Gene Zanetti of Penn. He will face No.3 Andrew Flanagan of Harvard, who scored a pin in overtime to defeat No. 7 Michael Savino of Brown.

At 165 pounds, Anceravage's upset win over Letters got the crowd's attention, while over on the other mat, No. 2 seed and defending EIWA champion Muzaffar Abdurakhmanov of American scored a workman-like 9-5 decision over No. 6 Craig Dziewiatkowski of Navy.

The 174-pound weight class went according to seeding. No. 1 seed Travis Frick of Lehigh took the early lead and went on to score a 9-4 decision over No. 4 seed Matt Stolpinski of Navy. Moving to the finals was No. 2 seed Matt Herrington of Penn, who emerged with an 8-5 victory over Matt Palmer of Columbia.

At 184 pounds, No. 1 seed Josh Glenn of American came on in the final period for a 6-0 win over Dustin Wiles of Penn. The match was scoreless after two periods, but Glenn scored an escape, takedown and a turn in the final stanza. On the other side, No. 2 seed Joe Mazzurco was dominant in an 11-4 decision over Justin Barent of Columbia.

The top two seeds at 197 pounds both won very tight matches by identical 3-2 scores. No. 1 seed Jerry Rinaldi of Cornell edged Charles Pogue of Navy, 3-2, while No. 2 Matt Cassidy of Lehigh stopped Penn's Paul Velekei, also 3-2.

The heavyweight finals will be a battle between the top two seeds, as No. 1 seed Tanner Garrett of Navy and No. 2 seed Bode Ogunwale of Harvard both advanced. Garrett survived a late comeback by Lehigh's Paul Weibel to win 8-6, while Ogunwale emerged with a 5-2 over a competitive Adam LoPiccolo of American.

EIWA finals pairings

125 lbs.
No. 1 Troy Nickerson (Cornell) vs. No. 2 Matt Fisk (Lehigh)

133 pounds
No. 1 Matt Valenti (Penn) vs. No. 3 Robbie Preston (Harvard)

141 pounds
No. 1 Cory Cooperman (Lehigh) vs. No. 2 Max Meltzer (Harvard)

149 pounds
No. 1 Matt Dragon (Penn) vs. No. 6 Trevor Chinn (Lehigh)

157 pounds
No. 1 Dustin Manotti (Cornell) vs. No. 3 Andrew Flanagan (Harvard)

165 pounds
No. 2 Muzaffar Abdurakmanov (American) vs. No. 4 Steve Anceravage (Cornell)

174 pounds
No. 1 Travis Frick (Lehigh) vs. No. 2 Matt Herrington (Penn)

184 pounds
No. 1 Josh Glenn (American) vs. No. 2 Joe Mazzurco (Cornell)

197 pounds
No. 1 Jerry Rinaldi (Cornell) vs. No. 2 Matt Cassidy (Lehigh)

285 pounds
No. 1 Tanner Garrett (Navy) vs. No. 2 Bode Ogunwale (Harvard)

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