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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Lehigh won six of ten weight classes to post its first victory over Illinois since 1934 as the Mountain Hawks downed the Fighting Illini 24-15 Saturday at Huff Hall. The Mountain Hawks won the first four weight classes, keyed by a first period pin by sophomore Randy Cruz at 141.
Lehigh has now won three straight duals and improves to 4-1 on the dual season. Illinois, which was without two-time national champion Jesse Delgado at 125, falls to 6-1.
Sophomore heavyweight Doug Vollaro started things well for the Mountain Hawks with a 3-1, sudden victory decision over Brooks Black in the opening bout of the dual. Vollaro countered a Black shot and secured the winning takedown with just three seconds remaining in the overtime period.
“They’re so talented in the middle of their lineup,” Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro said of the Fighting Illini. “We knew we’d have to score early. Doug went out and got a big win as he had never beaten Brooks Black before. That really got things going.”
With Delgado unavailable, Illinois forfeited to freshman Scott Parker at 125 increasing Lehigh’s lead to 9-0.
Junior Mason Beckman followed with a 6-3 decision over Dominic Olivieri at 133 before Cruz took the mat against No. 16 Steven Rodriguez. Cruz won a scramble for an early takedown to go up 2-0 and after returning to the center of the mat, slapped on a cradle to put Rodrigues on his back before earning the fall at 1:30.
“He’s getting a little better each week,” Santoro said about Cruz. “Sometimes coming off a deferred year it takes a little bit of time to get your motor going again. We knew it would be a big swing match and getting the pin there was huge.”
Trailing 18-0, the Fighting Illini responded with four straight victories to climb within 18-15 with two bouts remaining. Kyle Langenderfer won by major decision over freshman Drew Longo at 149 while eighth-ranked Isaiah Martinez won by technical fall over sophomore Will Switzer at 157. Wins by Jackson Morse over Santiago Martinez and Zac Brunson over Marshall Peppelman brought Illinois within three.
Junior Nathaniel Brown helped right the ship for the Mountain Hawks with a 2-1 win over Nikko Reyes in a battle of ranked wrestlers at 184. After a scoreless first period, Brown rode Reyes for more than 1:40 in the second and escaped early in the third to win on a 1:32 riding time advantage.
In the final bout of the dual, junior John Bolich forced a majority of the action and benefitted from a second period takedown to defeat Jeff Koepke 4-3 at 197.
“This was a good one to win because Illinois has a really good team,” Santoro said. “We’ll have to build off of this with another good Big Ten opponent coming up tomorrow.”
The Mountain Hawks will conclude their trip to Illinois on Sunday when they visit No. 17 Northwestern for a 1 p.m. (CT) match. The match will be broadcast on WLVR-FM (91.3) as well as WLVR.org.
Lehigh 24, Illinois 15
285 – Doug Vollaro (Lehigh) dec. Brooks Black (Illinois) 3-1, s.v.
125 – Scott Parker (Lehigh) won by forfeit
133 – Mason Beckman (Lehigh) dec. Dominic Olivieri (Illinois) 6-3
141 – Randy Cruz (Lehigh) Fall Steven Rodrigues (Illinois) 1:30
149 – Kyle Langenderfer (Illinois) major dec. Drew Longo (Lehigh) 17-7
157 – Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) tech fall Will Switzer (Lehigh) 24-9, 6:47
165 – Jackson Morse (Illinois) dec. Santiago Martinez (Lehigh) 7-5
174 – Zac Brunson (Illinois) dec. Marshall Peppelman (Lehigh) 6-2
184 – Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh) dec. Nikko Reyes (Illinois) 2-1
197 – John Bolich (Lehigh) dec. Jeff Koepke (Illinois) 4-3