Lehigh wrestlers recap 2021 season-The Brown and White
After winning an EIWA championship for the fourth time in a row, all 10 starting wrestlers qualified for the NCAA championships in March.
Five of the qualified Mountain Hawks held at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri, made it through to day two of the tournament’s action before being eliminated later that evening.
While the team was disappointed to leave without an All-American for the first time since 2009, it remains hopeful for a competitive season next year, using Nationals as motivation for their training this off-season.
“It was definitely a disappointing tournament, both individually and as a team, but it drives us to work harder all summer and into next year,” said Junior Jimmy Hoffman.
The Mountain Hawks returned to competition in January for the first time since the 2020 NCAA championships were canceled.
Adjustments to the COVID-19 protocols in addition to peaks in positive cases led to the cancellation of four games and further delays in training.
The newcomer Luca Frinzi said that although the team had hoped for a better result for the season, they felt happy that they even had the chance to compete.
“There was a lot of uncertainty leading up to our season and while we weren’t finished the way we wanted it was a sense of relief to even make it with the citizens and have this opportunity,” said Frinzi.
After the Nationals took a week to recover mentally and physically, the team is back in training to prepare for the next season.
Of the 10 wrestlers who qualified for the NCAA championship this year, Senior Jake Jakobsen is one of the two not expected back.
Jakobsen said he has confidence in the younger members of the team who continue to improve and carry on a successful legacy in the Lehigh wrestling program.
“It’s definitely difficult that the safety guidelines don’t allow graduates to train with younger teammates for the rest of spring, but I know they are working as hard as they can to prepare for the next year,” said Jakobsen .
Hoffman said having a greater sense of regularity in practicing will be beneficial over the next season. While their schedule for the next season is not yet known, they can at least expect to have a season where the sport has returned to normal.
“It is encouraging that the team is now eligible for the vaccine so we can look forward to minimizing positive cases and returning to a continuous cycle of training,” said Hoffman.
With the improved COVID-19 conditions, the team also hopes for the fans to return in the coming year.
“I’m really looking forward to competing with the fans,” said Frinzi. “Having an audience support at Grace Hall is really changing the environment and I think this next season will be really cool to see.”
As Jakobsen completes his final year of wrestling for Lehigh and begins his career path, he said he will continue to carry the lessons he learned through the wrestling program and from head coach Pat Santoro.
In addition to his success on the mat, Jakobsen said Lehigh Wrestling prepared him for life after college.
“The ultimate goal is to be an All-American (and a) National Champion, but it’s also to prepare you for the future,” said Jakobsen. “I think the Lehigh wrestling program does a good job of that, and I hope it stays that way for the next year and beyond.”