Season Preview: Competition to Breed Success for Mountain Hawks

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Tight, yet competitive. That’s one way to describe the 2022-23 Lehigh wrestling team. The Mountain Hawks have 42 wrestlers on the roster. The team camaraderie is strong and just about everyone on the roster will have opportunities to showcase their talents in the upcoming season, whether in duals or open tournaments.

“This is by far the most competitive group we’ve had,” 15th-year head coach Pat Santoro said. “They get along really well, but there’s a lot of competition at a lot of different weights. It will be a fun year because we’ll have a lot of flexibility from dual to dual.”

The Mountain Hawks’ roster features experience, highlighted by 11 returning wrestlers that have previously qualified for the NCAA Championships. Lehigh returns a pair of wrestlers that have earned All-America honors in Josh Humphreys and newcomer Michael Beard. Three Mountain Hawks: Humphreys, Jaret Lane and Malyke Hines have won at least one individual EIWA title. Expectations are high but have been managed by the focus on appreciating the process of getting better.

“The attitude of the team has been very strong,” Santoro said. “We’ve seen them become very consistent. We’re focused on appreciating every day and coming into the room with the attitude of getting better as opposed to just trying to be physical or wrestling hard. It’s now about ‘how good can you get in a short amount of time?'”

A large roster and a large veteran presence will offer an opportunity for many different wrestlers to step up into leadership roles.

“It’s hard to pinpoint just one when one person (Jordan Wood) was doing so much of it,” Santoro said. “A lot of people have been stepping up in smaller roles. We’re going to see the true leaders as the season develops. Once you hit adversity that’s where the leadership has to kick in.”

A season removed from its fourth consecutive EIWA team title, Lehigh aspires to reclaim its perch at the top of the EIWA while also looking to get back into the top 10 at the NCAA Championships, and eventually, pursue a top four team trophy at the national tournament.

To pursue those goals, Lehigh has put together another challenging schedule. The Mountain Hawks will wrestle four of the top 15 team finishers at last year’s NCAA Championships and at least 10 teams that are ranked in the NWCA’s preseason top 25.

“We try to wrestle the best schedule we can and give our guys opportunities to excel or to understand where they’re at and where they need to be,” Santoro said. “We give them every opportunity to get better. We’ll face a lot of really great competition, which is exciting.”

The dual season begins Saturday when No. 17 Lehigh hosts No. 19 Oregon State on Take Down Cancer Day, presented by Red Robin in partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at 12 p.m. at Stabler Arena. The following day, Lehigh will host Sacred Heart at 2 pm inside Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall.

Here’s a weight by weight look at what to expect from the Mountain Hawks in 2022-23:

125 – Jaret Lane won an EIWA title in 2021 and was up to his winning and pinning ways prior to suffering a season-ending injury last season. Lane is back and ready to go in his fifth-year in the program. Sophomore Sheldon Seymour was solid filling in for Lane as he placed sixth at the EIWA Championships and was an alternate for the NCAA Tournament. Lehigh also has deferred first-year Carter Bailey and true first-year Killian Delaney at this weight class.

133 – Another 2021 EIWA Champion, Malyke Hines, is moving up to 141 so Connor McGonagle will drop down to 133. McGonagle qualified for the NCAA Championships at 141 in both of the last two seasons. Lehigh also has talented true first-year Ryan Crookham, a three-time Pennsylvania state champion and one of the nation’s top recruits.

141 – Malyke Hines is a two-time NCAA qualifier and 2021 EIWA Champion at 133 who is moving up here. Three true first-years will provide depth at this weight class: Kelvin Griffin from Maine by way of The Hill School; California native Kimo Leia and Owen Reinsel from Brookville Area in western Pennsylvania.

149 – Lehigh has a returning NCAA qualifier here in sophomore Max Brignola, who came out of a planned deferred year to finish third in the EIWA and punch his ticket to NCAAs. Brignola also won a pair of first-semester open tournaments. The Mountain Hawks also hope to have Manzona Bryant IV, who started at this weight class during the first semester, back in the mix. Third-year wrestlers Drew Munch and Steven Storm are expected to come up from 141 to provide depth.

157 – Josh Humphreys enters his senior season as a two-time EIWA Champion and 2020 NWCA All-American. Humphreys reached the NCAA quarterfinals last year and fell just short of a second All-America honor. Sophomore Tyler Sung, deferred first-year Zac Martin and fourth-year sophomore Paul Watkins, who saw time at 149 last year, will vie for time behind Humphreys.

165 – Brian Meyer returns as the most experienced out of a group of five at this weight class. Meyer is a three-year starter at the weight and a two-time NCAA qualifier who earned a pair of top 10 victories last season. Fourth-year wrestler Luca Frinzi, a 2021 NCAA qualifier, and third-year Connor Herceg also figure in here along with deferred first-year Patrick Edmondson and true first-year Owen Quinn.

174 – Jake Logan has held this spot in each of the last two seasons and qualified for the NCAA Championships back in 2021. Also competing for time here are a pair of third-year wrestlers with first-year eligibility: Thayne Lawrence and Sean Kilrain.

184 – Perhaps Lehigh’s deepest weight class, 184 has seven wrestlers in the mix. AJ Burkhart bumped up three weight classes prior to last season and qualified for the NCAA Championships with a third place EIWA finish. The Mountain Hawks have also brought in Tate Samuelson, formerly of Wyoming, a four-time NCAA qualifier who comes to Lehigh as a graduate transfer. Sophomore JT Davis started for the Mountain Hawks at 197 last season and is dropping down to his more natural weight. This weight class also features sophomore Caden Wright, deferred first-year Jack Wilt and true first-years Remy Brancato and Caden Rogers.

197 – Lehigh has added a proven performer in Michael Beard, a 2021 All-American, as a transfer from Penn State. Beard finished seventh two seasons ago and should be one of the leaders of this Lehigh team. The Mountain Hawks also feature a pair of two sport athletes here in Gaige Garcia, who leads Lehigh’s football team in rushing and Mike Sisselberger who is an All-America faceoff specialist in lacrosse. First-year Dontae Hoose or some of the wrestlers at 184 could also provide depth.

285 – The Mountain Hawks will have to replace one of their all-time greats in Jordan Wood, a three-time All-American who is the only five-time EIWA Champion in league history. Deferred first-year Nathan Taylor was Lehigh’s Deferred Eligibility Wrestler of the Year in 2021-22. He will compete with fifth-year Elijah Jones and sophomores Karam Chakif and TJ Moore.

The 2022-23 Lehigh Wrestling season is presented by the Historic Hotel Bethlehem.

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