Healthy Bald Eagles lineup battles Arizona State in unique environment
By SAM KUPERMAN
For The Express
The nationally ranked Lock Haven University wrestling team will hit the mats today in its toughest dual to date. The 3-2 Bald Eagles, who are ranked as high as No. 22 in the nation, face the 4-6 Sun Devils of Arizona State, who are placed as high as No. 10 in the country. This marquee matchup should have an especially organic feel to it, as it will take place inside Red Lion Area Sr. High School.
The location should bring an especially enthused pro-LHU crowd to the gym, as a heavy chunk of Lock Haven’s roster hails from the District Three region. High school gyms are sometimes used for Division I matchups as a recruiting tool of sorts. This counts as a home dual for Lock Haven, and will help both programs as they attempt to put their talents on display in a talent-rich region of the Keystone State.
The dual should be tightly contested. Both lineups feature four nationally ranked wrestlers. The teams both finished in the top twenty at the 2018 NCAA Championships, each claiming a national finalist. Lock Haven’s was 149 pound runner-up Ronnie Perry, while Arizona State claimed a title at 174 courtesy of now-redshirt junior Zahid Valencia.
The indication that Lock Haven head coach Scott Moore gave at Tuesday night’s LHU Coaches Show is that the dual will conclude at the 165 weight class. This would pin two returning All-Americans and top five wrestlers in the nation against each other. LHU’s Chance Marsteller is currently fourth in the country. ASU’s Josh Shields is fifth.
Marsteller’s only loss on the season came 6-5 in the Southern Scuffle finals against two-time national champion Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State. Shields fell by major decision 11-2 to Joseph in a dual at Penn State on Dec. 14. The prospect of this matchup potentially being the one for all of the marbles is exciting.
This will be the first dual of the year with Lock Haven’s full projected lineup being in-tact. LHU has yet to have Marsteller, Thomas Haines (no. 9 at 285), and Corey Hazel (no. 13 at 184) in the lineup at the same time. Hazel has been out of commission since the Nov. 30 dual with George Mason, while Marsteller and Haines have both missed time at various points of the season. Haines and Hazel were both out at this month’s Virginia Duals, where LHU went a disappointing 1-2 with a significant chunk of its lineup unable to wrestle.
In addition to that trio all being in for Lock Haven, the Bald Eagles will have former national qualifier DJ Fehlman at 133 for the first time this year. Fehlman came into the year competing with nationally ranked teammate Kyle Shoop at 141, but has shed weight over time to move to 133, where the redshirt-junior had competed during his previous years at LHU.
At 133, Fehlman likely will have the chance to wrestle a former teammate. Arizona State’s projected lineup has sophomore Josiah Kline slated to compete at that weight. Kline, an Arizona native with family in the Northeast, wrestled at Lock Haven last season. Now a fixture in the ASU lineup, Kline is 19-9 on the year in his first season in Tempe.
Both teams will have quick turnarounds after Friday night’s bout. Arizona State dukes it out with No. 21 Lehigh Saturday night in Bethlehem. Lock Haven returns to the Thomas Fieldhouse Sunday at 1 p.m. for a meeting with PSAC foe Millersville. This could lead to both teams being cautious with certain wrestlers in the lineup.
An example of this for ASU is at 125, where eighth-ranked Ryan Millhof is listed as an alternate in the probable lineup provided to LHU Athletics ahead of Friday’s dual. This would seem to indicate that Millhof, who hasn’t wrestled since the Midlands on Dec. 30, likely won’t wrestle in both duals, if he even wrestles at all this weekend.
This is only the fifth time the teams have ever faced off, with Lock Haven seeking its first ever victory over Arizona State. Both lineups are stacked with talent. The fact that this dual is taking place inside the confines of a high school gym is special.
Get your popcorn ready.