LHU Wrestling hosts two key EWL duals in weekend home stand
By SAM KUPERMAN
For The Express
After a two-dual road slate, No. 22 Lock Haven University Wrestling heads back to the friendly confines of the Thomas Fieldhouse for two weekend Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) duals. LHU (6-3, 3-0 EWL) attempts to gain some separation at the top of the EWL standings, facing Rider (7-3, 4-0 EWL) Friday and Clarion (5-5, 2-1 EWL) Sunday.
Lock Haven has had a strong start to the season, and is now just about fully healthy. The Bald Eagles now face their toughest EWL opponents of the season though. This is especially the case with Rider, who has defeated LHU in eight consecutive duals. The last Bald Eagle win over the Broncs came in 2002.
This Rider team is certainly not the same one as last year’s though. The Broncs lost two NCAA qualifiers from last year’s squad. This includes 165-pounder Chad Walsh, who came one win shy of achieving All-American status.
Last year LHU fell to Rider 22-12 in New Jersey. It’s worth noting that nationally-ranked heavyweight Thomas Haines was out for Lock Haven in that dual, but Rider’s depth prevailed in that one.
This year’s team still possesses some of its talent from 2017-18, but a majority of the lineup for the Broncs will look different on Friday.
Sunday gives Lock Haven a chance to face a Clarion team that has gutted out some tough duals despite a slew of injuries at key spots. The Golden Eagles have suffered season-ending injuries at 133, 141, and 149. Coach Keith Ferraro, who wrestled at Lock Haven from 2000-2003, says his team has had a combined 10 surgeries this season.
A banged up Clarion lineup shouldn’t be as much of a challenge as Rider will be, and the Broncs’ 23-10 victory over the Golden Eagles last weekend indicates a bit of a disparity between the teams. Both bring in capable wrestlers though, and should have that extra motivation that comes with heading into enemy territory to face the conference favorite. Lock Haven defeated Clarion 28-12 last season.
Lock Haven will need to bounce back from last Saturday’s 32-9 road loss to No. 13 Cornell.
Haines, now ranked No. 11 per the NCAA’s national rankings, is the reigning EWL Athlete of the Week. He was a huge bright spot for LHU in that dual, pinning Cornell’s Jeramy Sweany in 1:39. He won in a major decision at Edinboro last week too.
Haines, along with Corey Hazel (No. 17 at 184), Chance Marsteller (No. 5 at 165) and Kyle Shoop (No. 20 at 141), hold national rankings coming into a crucial weekend for the program.
This is the first Division I home dual for Lock Haven since November 30, when the team convincingly knocked off George Mason in the annual “White-Out.” The theme for Friday will be a “Crimson-Out,” as Bald Eagle fans are encourage to don their crimson attire.
It’s a crucial time of the season, with a mere three league duals (and one non-league dual) remaining before the EWL Tournament. In that span, we’ll get a better sense of how many automatic tournament bids will be awarded to EWL wrestlers. The best way to increase that number, is simply to keep winning. That’s the task at hand, making this weekend an especially important one for the nationally-ranked Bald Eagles.