Lehigh overpowers AU in wrestling dual on Alumni Night
Esteban Gomez-Rivera captured the only win for the Eagles while AU dropped 31-3
The battle between a small private school in Northwest D.C. and a national wrestling powerhouse from Pennsylvania, one of the largest wrestling states in the country, could be seen as a David vs. Goliath kind of matchup. Except for one thing. David, or in this case, AU, lost.
The Eagles fell to the No. 8 Lehigh Mountain Hawks on Saturday night in Bender Arena 31-3, a score that AU head coach Teague Moore called “depressing.” Moore, although disappointed that his team only secured one individual win during the contest, said that a few tweaks in the wrestling room and more film work will help his team compete with greater strength in its next conference dual.
“One, we have to get through the flu bug, and you can see tonight, we just didn’t look like we had the spunk that we need, late in periods, which is where we have been winning some of our better matches in the past. So, we’ll get everyone healthy again,” Moore said. “We’ll [also] take some time to study our opponents, but also make sure that we’re making ourselves as good as we can be again.”
The Eagles struggled against the nationally dominant Mountain Hawks from the very first match, as No. 16 sophomore Josh Terao lost a competitive 9-5 dual against No. 8 junior Darian Cruz. Terao has been one of AU’s most consistent performers throughout the 2016-2017 season, leading the team in dual meet wins and sharing the title of most overall wins with teammate Michael Sprague.
Against Cruz though, Terao struggled to find his rhythm. Cruz notched the first takedown after gaining control of Terao’s leg, and the Lehigh junior then energized the large Mountain Hawk fan base in Bender Arena when he scored another two points before the end of the period. Terao fought back, earning four near fall points, but ultimately fell 9-5 after Cruz hit a reversal, a takedown and secured the riding time point.
“I give credit to Cruz because he is an extremely good athlete, a good wrestler,” Moore said. “We allowed Cruz to kind of play into his game plan, his strategy. We knew there were certain areas that we wanted to avoid. Cruz was able to get to those positions.”
The Eagles found themselves re-energized as a team in the next match as their captain, senior 133-pounder Esteban Gomez-Rivera, battled back-and-forth with Lehigh freshman Joe Lobeck Jr. Lehigh held over two minutes of riding time and a 2-0 lead heading into the third period, but Gomez-Rivera persevered. He scrambled for two early takedowns, and after two consecutive escapes, battled his opponent to a tie, before earning the winning takedown and bringing his team to their feet. Gomez-Rivera’s win tied the team score after the first two matches, but he remained the only AU athlete to earn a win by the end of the night.
“I’m appreciative of the fact that Esteban battled through whatever he was feeling, and he found a way to be a leader for his team, and he’s a captain, that’s a great leadership role for a captain to show,” Moore said.
Michael Sprague also fought a tough match, dropping the bout with an identical score to Josh Terao, 9-5, but his only points against his ranked opponent came from escapes and reversals. No. 10 Laike Gardner controlled Sprague on offense, ending with the advantage on riding time and bringing the team score to 9-3.
Midway through the contest against the Mountain Hawks, head coach Teague Moore and AU athletic director and former college wrestler Dr. Billy Walker welcomed over a dozen AU wrestling alumni to the center of the mat to celebrate the history and success of AU wrestling.
The crowd included 2016 graduates David Terao, John Boyle and Mitch Wightman, as well as AU athletics Hall of Famer Dr. Robert Karch and three time All-American Michael Cannon and nine others. Moore and Walker beamed with pride as they welcomed each athlete to mat, and the recognition of the former wrestlers on Alumni night served as one of the few bright spots of the evening for the Eagles.
The Mountain Hawks, unfazed by the celebration of AU athletes and the unique intermission excitement, notched two consecutive technical falls in the 165 and 174-pound matches. Senior Jason Grimes then stepped up for the eighth match of the day, and he battled Lehigh freshman Kyle Gentile with visible determination.
Both he and AU junior Brett Dempsey, who competed in the 285-pound division, battled to keep the score within two points in their matches, but neither managed to pull ahead and capture the win. The Eagles ended the day with just one individual win, Gomez-Rivera’s late third-period comeback 7-6 victory, but the road to the conference championships and the NCAA is just beginning.
“It’s a good learning experience, so we’ll take it for what it is,” Moore said. “Mid-season is when we do want to see [Lehigh]. We will be ready for EIWAs [Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association].”
The Eagles travel to the University of Pennsylvania on Jan. 29 to compete against Penn, Drexel and Bucknell before returning home to compete in Bender on Feb. 5 against Binghamton. Each team will test the Eagles and offer them a chance to wrestle conference opponents, but the team has one more weekend to prepare for the upcoming duals.
“I think next weekend is going to be a good weekend for us to sit back, analyze where everyone is individually and then we do game-up because Drexel and Penn are both in our conference,” Moore said.