Lehigh Set To Tangle With In State Rival Lock Haven

By Denny Diehl | Nov. 13, 2000, 12 a.m. (ET)
Bethlahem, PA Anyone thinking the next big home wrestling dual for 8th-ranked Lehigh is Michigan on Jan. 5 is jumping the gun, while hopping aboard the Brown & White bandwagon as a Top 10 team. Few rabid wrestling fans outside Lock Haven, PA recall this: the Bald Eagles have won their last 3 duals with Lehigh, in '97, '96 & '95, the latter win over the EIWA champions which finished 11-2. The Best-Little-Series no one knows is led by Lehigh, 5-3, and began with back-to-back LU wins in '70 & '71. The first drew nearly 3,000 in Grace Hall and our first visit to Thomas Fieldhouse, nicknamed the "Hall of Noise," set a then-record turnout of 4,000 for a school which has an intimate enrollment about 700 less than Lehigh's 4,500. That crowd was electrified with a big lead after 7 weights, before the Engineers' 1-2 punch of Steve Shields & Scott Christie decked the Hall with falls at 177 & 191 to eek out a win. For most, it was the first time we learned that the likeable town of Lock Haven was the former home of Piper Cub and also proudly known by locals as "Mat-Town USA." Our last win in the series came in 1994 (19-14 at home) and our last loss was a heart stopper in '97, with the Eagles edging the Hawks 20-19. The key bout was 6th-ranked Mike Guerin edging unranked John Van Doren 5-4 at 177 (the eventual NCAA 3rd). Guerin was 1 of 5 Lock Haven All-Americans that year, a school record, as the Bald Eagles scored 54 points for 5th place at NCAAs. That total is 7.5 pts. more than any EIWA team in the last 20 years. More tradition? While Lehigh leads the East in NCAA titles and individual titlists (ranking 5th with 24 & 18), Lock Haven is tied for 15th (nine titles) with one amazing stat: they lead the nation in W-L pct in the NCAA finals, winning 9 of 10 championship bouts. The last was Cary Kolat in '97 (NCAA 3rd, 2nd for PSU, 2x 1st for LH), who later spent a half year on Greg Strobel's LU staff in '98-99 as Volunteer Assistant, contributing valuable teaching to Hawk wrestlers. The greatest Bald Eagle wrestler ever remains one of the finest in NCAA history-- Gray Simons, NCAA 1st in '61-63, losing only one career bout and winning an Olympic medal. In last year's final NWCA dual poll, Lehigh (19-2) was 12th, with Lock Haven (11-7) 24th. The Eagles faced 8 teams rated Top 20 during the year, dropping close losses to Penn State (21-18) and Nebraska (20-16). In addition to numerous redshirts last season, the school hopes to welcome at least two former 1st-team H.S. All-Americans via transfer in January-- Jamarr Billman (149), an NCAA 5th from Penn State and Hwt. J.R. Plienis from Nebraska. The tentative line ups for the dual meet are as follows: Lockhaven: 125: Trap McCormick 133: Scott Bair 141: Mike Maney 149: Jim Lavalle 157: Rob Weikel 165: Brian Olenek 174: Dave Surovec 184: Josh Millard 197: Avery Zerkle Hwt: Craig Tefft Lehigh: 125: Terrance Clendenin 133: Tristan Boyd 141: Matt Goldstein 149: Dave Esposito 157: Ryan Bernholz 165: Chris Vitale 174: Bill Brine 184: Rob Rohn 197: Jon Trenge Hwt: Shawn Laughlin