Lehigh snaps Rutgers' 15-match unbeaten streak
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — All good things must come to an end.
The Rutgers wrestling team saw its 15-match unbeaten streak come to an end Saturday afternoon at the Stabler Arena, falling to No. 7 Lehigh, 28-3 in the season's final dual-match.
The No. 22 Scarlet Knights could not attain any momentum, however when the match was over, not one wrestler had his head down. They simply accepted the defeat and saw how much further they have to go to be on top.
"At no point do I feel embarrassed about this match," said head coach Scott Goodale. "I think we wrestled hard and we knew that this could happen. Of course we would like to win a couple more there, but we knew that they are at that level. We are trying to get to that level and we will soon."
RU (19-5-1) fell into trouble early when redshirt freshman Joe Langel dropped a 5-4 decision in the opening bout. For the 125-pounder, it was his first loss since Dec. 12, 2009, snapping his team-high win streak at 17 matches.
Lehigh (15-3-1) continued to push the pace against the Knights, winning the next three matches to build a 12-0 lead.
"We got out-hustled in the first four bouts, ones we have been winning all year," Goodale said. "When you are coming into this environment and against this team, you can't have lapses and it took a little bit out of us."
Junior Daryl Cocozzo got RU on the board right before intermission by edging out Lehigh's Sean Bilodeau in a 5-1 decision.
The Edinboro transfer is 12-1 in dual matches since coming aboard for the Knights, with his only loss coming to No. 1 J.P. O'Conner of Harvard. Cocozzo now holds the team's longest winning streak at 11 matches.
"It was a big win for me, because he is an [Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association] opponent," Cocozzo said. "He was ranked right behind me but I knew I could beat him. I just stuck to what I do, and I won."
Whatever momentum the win at 157-pounds conjured up did not stick with the Knights after intermission, as they could not secure another victory in the match.
It appeared that senior Lamar Brown was on his way to a win in the 197-pound bout when his opponent was called for a penalty with 15 seconds remaining, giving Brown a 2-1 advantage. But Lehigh's Joe Kennedy quickly went back to work and took Brown down as time expired giving him the 3-2 win.
"They scouted us well and outsmarted us in a couple of areas," said assistant coach Cory Cooperman, a three-time EIWA Champion while wrestling at Lehigh. "They took us out of our element a bit. Our guys need to be a little bit tougher in adverse situations. You aren't going to get a better feel for the national tournament than competing at Lehigh."
The evening ended with a much-anticipated bout between senior D.J. Russo, the No. 10 heavyweight in the country, and No. 6 Zach Rey.
Russo was unable to avenge the past winter's 7-2 loss at the Midlands Tournament, with Rey winning this bout by a 4-2 final score.
The dual-match season is now over for the Knights and in two weeks the team travels back to Bethlehem, Pa., to compete in the EIWA Tournament.
"We are going to go back and watch some film and we need to find ways to force the action a little more," Goodale said. "Right now we just have to do a better job of scoring points and getting to their legs. I can't stress it enough, it is where we are trying to get, and we will get there soon enough."