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No. 23 Lehigh rallies for 17-16 win over No. 9 Cornell in sold-out Grace Hall

by Steve Lomangino, Lehigh Athletics

Luke Stanich (Lehigh) celebrates after his win at 125-pounds gives Lehigh the victory over Cornell. (Photo by Hannahally Photography.)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Trailing by eight with three bouts remaining, No. 23 Lehigh reeled off three consecutive wins by decision to knock off No. 9 Cornell 17-16 Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 1,944 at Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.

Wins by junior Michael Beard (197) and sophomore Nathan Taylor (285) meant the match came down to the lightweights at 125. True first-year Luke Stanich won a 3-0 decision over 14th-ranked Brett Ungar to send the Lehigh faithful into celebration and give the Mountain Hawks (2-3) their fourth win in their last five duals against the Big Red.

“This was awesome,” explained Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. “It was a great day for Lehigh wrestling.”

The teams split the 10 bouts with Lehigh having a 2-1 edge in bonus points, by way of first-year Ryan Crookham’s match-opening technical fall victory over Ethan Qureshi at 133.

In the decisive bout at 125, Stanich and Ungar wrestled a scoreless first period with Ungar warned for stalling. Ungar chose bottom in the second but Stanich went to work with a strong ride as he rode out for all two minutes and forced Ungar into a second stalling call to take a 1-0 lead after two. Stanich escaped early in the third and controlled positioning, not allowing Ungar to generate any offense. The riding time point made the final score 3-0 as Stanich moved to 11-1 on the season.

Cornell (4-3) followed Crookham’s match opening win with four consecutive victories to take a 13-5 lead at the halfway point.

At 141, Vince Cornella won a battle of ranked wrestlers 5-1 over junior Malyke Hines on the strength of a first-period takedown and ride out. Ethan Fernandez scored two first period takedowns that stood in a 6-3 decision over first-year Kelvin Griffin, who made his dual debut at 149.

The Big Red’s Meyer Shapiro led junior Max Brignola 4-2 in the third period at 157. Brignola put Shapiro in danger for several two-counts but was never able to secure enough control for a go-ahead takedown. Shapiro ultimately came out of the scramble with a late takedown to win 8-2 with riding time, putting Cornell up 9-5.

Third-ranked Julian Ramirez closed out the first half of the dual with Cornell’s lone bonus point win, an 11-3 major decision over junior Jake Logan at 165.

After Thayne Lawrence went down with an injury in Friday night’s win over Binghamton, sophomore Connor Herceg bumped up to 174 and helped establish momentum for the Mountain Hawks with a 10-4 decision over Benny Baker. Herceg scored a pair of first period takedowns to lead 6-2 after one and added another takedown in the second, plus a third period escape.

At 184, sophomore Jack Wilt helped keep Lehigh in striking distance by limiting the damage in a 16-9 loss to eighth-ranked Chris Foca. Wilt fought off his back in the first period to avoid a pin and controlled the third period with two takedowns to avoid the major decision. The regular decision kept Lehigh within eight with three bouts remaining.

“We thought we had to steal a couple of the first four and we only got one, but these guys just fought,” Santoro said. “This is what a team is about. They’re getting better and working hard. We just have to believe in what our abilities are. A few more guys and a little bit of belief is going to change the game.”

Beard started the Lehigh run with his second top 15 win of the weekend. He gave up the first takedown against No. 7 Jacob Cardenas but controlled the match from there, scoring the next two takedowns and adding two penalty points for stalling in a 10-3 decision.

Taylor followed with a 6-2 win over Lewis Fernandez at 285 to bring Lehigh within 16-14 heading into the final bout. A first period takedown and three-point near fall was the scoring from Taylor’s end, while Fernandez escaped twice and rode out the third period but could not turn the Lehigh heavyweight.

“Those last three matches were huge,” Santoro said. “All three guys had tough opponents so it was great to win those three. How about Jack Wilt fighting off of his back against a pinner and then saving the major and getting two takedowns at the end? Connor Herceg coming through with a big win wrestling up. Ryan Crookham keeps getting bonus points at 133. Every point mattered tonight. We knew it would take a team effort and it did. I’m really proud of these guys. We don’t have much time. We’ll enjoy it tonight and then get back to work.”

Saturday’s dual was the 101st meeting between Lehigh and Cornell with the Mountain Hawks now owning a 64-34-3 lead in the series, which dates back to Lehigh’s first-ever dual in 1910.

The Mountain Hawks continue their homestand next weekend when they host Penn Friday at 7 p.m. on Take Down Cancer, presented by Red Robin in partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and then No. 16 Navy Saturday at 2 p.m. on Salute to Service, presented by Weis Markets. Both duals will be held inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall. Tickets to both duals can be purchased at LehighTickets.com or by calling 610-758-4263 during business hours.

The 2023-24 Lehigh wrestling season is presented by the Historic Hotel Bethlehem.

No. 23 Lehigh 17, No. 9 Cornell 16

133 – Ryan Crookham (Lehigh) tech fall Ethan Qureshi (Cornell) 19-4, 4:20

141 – Vince Cornella (Cornell) dec. Malyke Hines (Lehigh) 5-1

149 – Ethan Fernandez (Cornell) dec. Kelvin Griffin (Lehigh) 6-3

157 – Meyer Shapiro (Cornell) dec. Max Brignola (Lehigh) 8-2

165 – Julian Ramirez (Cornell) major dec. Jake Logan (Lehigh) 11-3

174 – Connor Herceg (Lehigh) dec. Benny Baker (Cornell) 10-4

184 – Chris Foca (Cornell) dec. Jack Wilt (Lehigh) 16-9

197 – Michael Beard (Lehigh) dec. Jacob Cardenas (Cornell) 10-3

285 – Nathan Taylor (Lehigh) dec. Lewis Fernandez (Cornell) 6-2

125 – Luke Stanich (Lehigh) dec. Brett Ungar (Cornell) 3-0

Attendance – 1,944


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