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Freshman delivers in final bout

Billy Smith admitted he had struggled for the Rutgers wrestling team entering the Scarlet Knights’ 17-16 win Friday against Lehigh.

The redshirt freshman heavyweight dropped two of his three bouts before facing the Mountain Hawks, including a 7-5 loss to Iowa State’s Matt Gibson. The defeat was the decisive match, as Rutgers trailed, 16-15, entering the last match against Iowa State.

Smith faced the same situation against Lehigh on Friday after junior 197-pounder Dan Seidenberg dropped his match to Lehigh’s John Bolich, giving the Mountain Hawks a 16-14 lead with only Smith left to wrestle.

Smith left no doubt this time, as the Wantage, N.J., native jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Lehigh’s Jack Delia on a takedown in the first period. Smith continued to handle Delia until the final buzzer and finished with a 6-0 victory and the first win for Rutgers against Lehigh since 1950.

“I knew it was coming down to me.” Smith said after the win. “Mentally I just got prepared. I knew it was going to be a tough match, and I knew it was coming down to me. This match I felt more comfortable and I could stay within myself and not do anything extra. It felt good.”

Although it is always not the case, Smith is usually the last wrestler to take the mat in dual matches. And while sometimes it comes down to the final bout, Smith anticipates those opportunities.

As Smith continues to navigate through the season, a victory to clinch the Knights’ first win against Lehigh in more than 60 years can only help his confidence.

“This was a milestone,” he said. “I’ve been up and down this month, and this is going to help me push forward, knowing I can compete with the best of the best."

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