WVU Wrestling to Welcome No. 9 Lehigh on Friday

By Ira Green
WVU Sports Information Office

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (January 1, 2009) – The West Virginia University wrestling team will begin the new year by playing host to No. 9 Lehigh on Friday, Jan. 2, in the Mountaineers’ first home dual match of the season. The contest is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the WVU Coliseum.

The Mountaineers (2-1, 0-0) last wrestled at then-ranked No. 15 Penn State on Dec. 14. Fifth-year seniors Kurt Brenner (174) and Dustin Rogers (HWT) and freshman Lance Bryson all recorded victories at their respective weight classes.

Although the Mountaineers have not wrestled in a contest since that time, the team has used the past two weeks wisely and to their advantage.

“They have been going through some pretty strong training cycles about four to five days after Penn State,” Coach Craig Turnbull said. “They got about three-and-a-half days home and then we came back and we’ve been doing two-a-day training cycles until Tuesday. We’ve been able to use that time carefully.

“In some ways it was an opportunity to let some people heal, but for the large part, we did two pretty strong training cycles to really get us ready for this second part of the year.”

Brenner, who is currently ranked No. 13 at 174 pounds, leads the Mountaineers with a 7-2 mark and 18 takedowns. The Freedom, Pa., native is 3-0 in dual meets after taking a 3-2 decision against Penn State’s Quentin Wright, who was ranked No. 18 at the time.

Bryson and Rogers have also started off the season well, carrying identical 6-3 records into the match against Lehigh.

Bryson posted his second major decision of the season when he defeated Penn State’s Matt Dodds, 12-4. A Shoaf, Pa., native, Bryson has a 2-1 mark in dual matches. Second on the team with 17 takedowns, Bryson posted a 4-2 record at the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Invitational.

“I think the safe answer is you’re always trying to get there and he is a freshman who is learning very well and he is learning very quickly and his confidence is gaining, but there are just a lot of things to learn,” Turnbull said of Bryson. “He wrestles with such enthusiasm, intensity and passion and he’s growing a deeper confidence in himself. You don’t want to put a ceiling on what his possibilities are, but he has certainly shown signs of having an outstanding career here.”

Rogers, currently ranked No. 17 in the heavyweight division, holds the third spot in the takedowns category with 14. Owning a 2-1 dual match mark, Rogers’ only dual-match loss came in the first contest of the season against then-ranked No. 19 Ryan Flores of Columbia. Following that bout, Rogers posted victories against North Carolina’s then-No. 13 ranked Justin Dobies and Penn State’s Cameron Wade.

Lehigh owns a 10-0 mark this season and is 2-0 in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA). The Mountain Hawks, who are coming off a 25-9 victory at Rider, have registered impressive victories against then-ranked No. 9 Michigan (20-12 on Nov. 21) and then-ranked No. 7 Oklahoma State (18-13 Nov. 29 at the Journeymen/Brute Northeast Duals).

Lehigh has five individuals ranked in the Top 20 of their respective weight classes, including Trevor Chinn, who holds a 16-2 overall mark, 10-0 dual match record, at 149 pounds. Chinn is ranked No. 11 in his respective weight class and has registered five major decision victories this season.

The Mountain Hawks’ Alex Caruso, ranked No. 14 at 174 pounds, owns a 7-2 dual match record. Other ranked Lehigh wrestlers include 133-pounder Matt Fisk (ranked No. 20), 165-pounder Mike Galante (ranked No. 17) and 197-pounder Joe Kennedy (ranked No. 19).

Lehigh is under the direction of Coach Pat Santoro, who is in his first season at the helm of the program. Santoro came to Lehigh after serving as head coach at Maryland for five years. He previously worked at Lehigh for nine years, serving as the top assistant coach at for eight seasons.

“Coach Santoro has them wrestling very well,” Turnbull commented. “It’s a great opportunity for our team and we’re very excited about it. Everyone they put on the mat from 125 pounds to heavyweight is a very solid wrestler and is capable of beating many opponents. We’re competitive enough where we can win more than our share, but they are solid enough that they can win every weight class. It’ll be a very good challenge for each one of our guys.”

The meeting between the Mountain Hawks and Mountaineers will be only the second in program history. Prior to Friday’s match, the two teams faced off each other in 1921, WVU’s first year of competitive wrestling.
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