In a reverse of the 2012-13 season, Lehigh gave Penn wrestling a taste of its own medicine on its own mats.
In last season’s dual between the two squads, Penn stormed into Lehigh’s gym and jumped out to a 15-0 lead before holding on to win, 24-12.
This time, it was the Mountain Hawks (5-3) who flew out of the gate, taking the first five bouts en route to a 21-12 victory at the Palestra.
The Hawks provided an impressive performance despite an inactive Joey Napoli, who is the defending EIWA champion at 157 pounds.
The highlight for Penn (2-2) was provided by junior Lorenzo Thomas, who earned his team-leading sixth win by fall with under a minute left in the third period of his 184-pound bout. The six-point win accounted for half of Penn’s total points on the day and made the score 18-12 in favor of Lehigh with one match remaining.
Thomas needed a big performance and delivered, but it wasn’t enough as Penn freshman Frank Mattiace fell in the ensuing match at 197 pounds.
“I knew I had to get bonus points in order for us to stay in the match,” Thomas said. “I knew I had to get a fall.”
“We were looking for big points out of Lorenzo,” coach Rob Eiter added. “Lorenzo’s our anchor.”
Unfortunately, a good anchor doesn’t help much if the rest of the team fails to deliver.
Penn’s wrestlers often let their opponents hang around and dictate the late stages of matches, resulting in a deficit that proved to be insurmountable.
“We definitely did not wrestle well today,” Eiter said. “We just didn’t push the pace.”
In addition to Thomas, the only two Quakers to win matches were sophomore Ray Bethea at 157 pounds and junior Steve Robertson, who moved up a class to 165 pounds. Their wins came back-to-back and gave Penn life during the middle of the dual.
Only disappointment would followed.
Penn’s Casey Kent, the No. 13-ranked wrestler at 165 pounds, shifted up and gave No. 18 Elliot Riddick a run for his money in the 174-pound matchup, but he fell just short, 4-3. Kent, trying to continue the Quakers’ comeback, appeared to execute what would have been a match-winning takedown with just seconds left, but the two points were not granted, and Lehigh’s lead was extended to 12.
The frustration exhibited by Penn’s squad just after the tense match summed up the Quakers’ afternoon.
Penn repeatedly let chances slip, which, as Eiter pointed out, makes it “awful hard to win against a good team like Lehigh.”
The Quakers will get some time to rest before they continue their 2013-14 season campaign south and look to rebound at the Southern Scuffle in Tennessee on Jan. 1 and 2.
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