Lehigh leads Penn by point with Cornell close behind after quarterfinals at EIWA Championships

By Gary Abbott | March 04, 2006, 1:14 p.m. (ET)
The first session of the EIWA Championships went fairly close to script, at Lehigh Univ. in Bethlehem, Pa. All of the 10 of No. 1 seeded wrestlers advanced to the semifinals after the first session of action at the EIWA Championships at Lehigh Univ. in Bethlehem, Pa.

A major upset was averted at 184 pounds, when Josh Glenn of American, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, needed to go to double overtime to defeat No. 8 seed David Helfrich of Lehigh, 5-4. Helfrich pushed the action late in regulation, which ended tied at 4-4. After there was no takedown in the sudden death portion of overtime, the match went to the tiebreakers. Glenn scored an escape when he was in the bottom position, then rode Helfrich for the 30 seconds from top position for the win.

In a close team race, bonus points are often a deciding factor. The early rounds of a tournament offer talented wrestlers a chance to score pins, technical falls and major decisions that help their team tremendously. Upsets are also a big factor in the team race.

Lehigh, the pre-meet favorite which has won four straight EIWA titles, is expected to be tested by strong teams from Cornell and the Univ. of Pennsylvania. The seeded athletes from all three teams are expected to score extra points when possible.

After the quarterfinals ended, Lehigh had a half-point lead over Penn, with 56 points to 55.5 points. Cornell was close behind with 52.5 points in third. The tight race that was expected has occurred.

In the opening round, which includes at least three byes in each bracket, all three of the favored teams were able to pick up those bonus points. Although Navy led the team standings after the round, Cornell had the edge among the three favored teams with 13 points. Lehigh was third with 11.5 points, Army in fourth with 11 points and Penn right behind in fifth with 10.5 pounds.

Cornell had five athletes score bonus points, and grabbed the team lead after the first rounds. The Big Red had pins from No. 1 seed Troy Nickerson at 125 pounds and No. 7 seed Keith Dickey at 149 pounds, and major decisions from No. 1 seed Dustin Manotti at 157 pounds, No. 2 seed Joe Mazzurco at 184 pounds and No. 1 seed Jerry Rinaldi at 197 pounds.

Lehigh received bonus points from four of their five wrestlers in the round, as five Mountain Hawks had byes. Lehigh got pins from No. 1 seed Troy Letters at 165 pounds and No. 8 seed Dave Helfrich at 184 pounds, a technical fall from No. 6 seed Trevor Chinn at 149 pounds and a major decision from No. 2 seed Derek Zinck at 157 pounds.

Penn received a pin from No. 4 seed Gene Zanetti at 157 pounds and a technical fall from No. 2 seed Matt Herrington at 174 pounds.

The quarterfinals is a tougher round to score bonus points, and another way for teams to outscore their opponents is to score the most upset victories. In addition, placing athletes into the semifinals and keeping them in the championship bracket where they can score

The bonus points in that round went as follows:

For Cornell, Nickerson added an 18-3 technical fall over Navy's Alex Usztics at 125 pounds. At 157 pounds, Manotti had a major decision over Brian Rowan of Army, 11-3.

For Lehigh, No. 1 seed Cory Cooperman had a 12-3 major decision over Kyle Ferris of East Stroudsburg. No. 1 Travis Frick added a 14-3 major decision over Matthew DiNichilo of Princeton at 174 pounds. In the final match of the session, No. 4 seed Paul Weibel added a technical fall over Columbia's William Beecham, 19-3.

For Penn, No. 1 seed freshman Matt Dragon scored a 3:24 pin over Robert Latessa of Harvard at 149 pounds. A big boost came at 184 pounds, when No. 5 Dustin Wiles pinned No. 4 Rudy Medini of Rutgers in 4:02. Major decisions were added at 125 pounds, where No. 3 Mike Silengo beat Brown's Jeff Schell, 11-3, and at 197 pounds, when No. 3 Paul Velekei beat Orin Kleinhenz of Columbia, 12-4.

Upsets were even harder to find.

Lehigh scored a big upset when No. 6 seed freshman Trevor Chinn scored an overtime takedown to edge No. 3 Thomas Kniezewski of American, 3-1, making the Lehigh fans section erupt with loud cheers. However, one of the Mountain Hawks top veterans, No. 2 seed senior Derek Zinck was upset by Brown's No. 7 seed Michael Savino, 3-2 at 157 pounds.

The session ended with Lehigh, Cornell and Penn all having seven athletes in the semifinals.