Practice hadn’t started just yet, but Cael Sanderson’s club was already letting their actions speak louder than words, taking a very workmanlike approach to their second straight championship defense. The Nittany Lions will open with No.24 Lehigh Friday night at Rec Hall, before traveling to Morgantown for their second dual of the season Sunday against West Virginia.
Alton Questionable: Sanderson was asked to clarify the injury status of likely 149 pound starter Andrew Alton Tuesday afternoon, and while mum, Sanderson did offer some insight. “Yeah, I’d say that’s fair. He’s questionable,” Sanderson said when asked how to refer to Alton’s status. The redshirt sophomore continues to heal from a reported lower leg injury. “That’s not something we want to put a limit on, but he’s going to be in here wrestling today (Tuesday), and he’ll be a match day decision.” As previously noted, senior James English will go if Alton cannot. Either way, the task will be tall, as Lehigh’s Shane Welsh is ranked 12th in the weight class by Intermat, and first in the EIWA inaugural rankings.
Lawson, Gingrich, to Split Matches: Heavyweights Jimmy Lawson and Jon Gingrich wouldn’t say if they had wrestled off yet, but Sanderson made the battle crystal clear by giving his plan of action for this weekend. “We want to give both of those guys a chance, so each is going to get a match this weekend,” Sanderson said. “We don’t see the need to put it out there early, though we’ll probably decide before that. But both guys will get a match.”
Taylor Talks NWCA Classic, Season Preparation: David Taylor met the media for the first time since losing to Cornell’s Kyle Dake at the NWCA All-Star classic 2-1 in overtime, and the Nittany Lion junior was insightful about where he needs to improve after the match. “There were a lot of pluses and negatives, but it’s only one match. We’ll meet again down the road,” Taylor said. “Kyle is good; he’s a savvy wrestler and knows how to win in close matches. I’ve never had a match like that, and I have to learn how to get the refs involved with forcing the stalling issue. I misunderstood, a stalling rule, and I know you can’t wrestle for stalling, and that cost me the match.” Dake is arguably one of the best, if not the best, defensive wrestlers in the country, but the Nittany Lions’ have one of their own in the room, which will add versatility to the prolific offensive attack Taylor already has. “It’s something I need to work on, with opening guys up and scoring first,” Taylor said. “No one can do it better than [head assistant coach Casey] Cunningham; he never shoots on me. He’s very hard to score on, so I know if I can score on him, I can score on anybody. I need to get in earlier and create those scrambles. I’m the best scrambler in the country, so I need to get in there and create those scrambles and open guys up, and there’s no one better to replicate that then Coach Cunningham.”
Gingrich Shines at Binghamton Open: Heavyweight Jon Gingrich picked up his first championship of the season with a 9-1 major decision victory over Lock Haven’s Harry Turner Sunday, giving him plenty of momentum heading into the weekend. “Gingrich had a great performance. He won tournaments last year, so it’s not a big surprise, but he’s bigger than he was last year, so that’s good,” Sanderson said. “I know he’s a lot bigger because I wrestle with him, and he’s a lot stronger and technically better.”
Scouting the Mountain Hawks: Pat Santoro’s club comes into Friday’s match 1-0 after besting Binghamton 23-16 in their first match of the season, but there’s no doubt that Lehigh will be a significant underdog to the Nittany Lions come 7 p.m. Welsh is the top ranked wrestler in Lehigh’s line-up, and the senior is a late bloomer who made a surprise run to the title in last winter’s EIWA tournament, which he came into seeded sixth. But the true class of Santoro’s club is 184-pounder Robert Hamlin, who is coming off an EIWA championship to go along with a fourth place finish at last year’s NCAA championships, and his match with Penn State junior Ed Ruth is likely to be the match of the night. Four other Mountain Hawks also garnered top six honors in the first EIWA season rankings.
Likely Lehigh Line-up:
125 pounds: Alex Abreu, Jr.
133: Laike Gardiner, Fr.
141: Anthony Saluo, So.
149: Shane Welsh, Sr.
157: Joey Napoli, Jr.
165: Eric Hess, Fr.
174: Nathaniel Brown, So.
184: Robert Hamlin, Sr.
197: John Bolich, Fr.
285: Jack Della, Fr.