LHU battles Navy at Red Lion High School in ‘Rumble in the Jungle’
By SAM KUPERMAN
For The Express
Lock Haven University wrestling put on a show last January at Red Lion High School. Competing in the confines of a well-packed gym in the York, Pennsylvania area (an LHU recruiting hotbed), the Bald Eagles knocked off No. 12 Arizona State in thrilling fashion.
Coming off of a season-opening dual meet loss to Central Michigan, LHU will attempt to notch a victory over Navy at the very same venue. The matchup between the Bald Eagles and the Midshipmen will square off in what’s been dubbed “The Rumble in the jungle Part Two.”
“It didn’t go as planned,” Lock Haven coach Scott Moore said on Tuesday’s ‘LHU Coaches Show’ regarding the Central Michigan dual meet. “But it’s just going back to the drawing board. We’re not reinventing the wheel, it’s just going back to the basics and understanding why we lost, what were the factors that were part of that loss.”
“Obviously some guys did wrestle well,” Moore added. “We had three guys who had major decisions, a few guys had close matches, but ultimately not our best team performance. It’s just a little resurgence this week. A little more focus. A little more discipline in what we’re doing as a staff.”
In trying to bounce back, Lock Haven gets a Navy squad that enters the dual meet at 3-2. The Midshipmen have faced tough competition early on, with that pair of losses coming against Big Ten powerhouses Penn State and Wisconsin.
Navy features two nationally ranked wrestlers, and comes off of a year in which they sent five athletes to nationals. That profile is pretty similar to Lock Haven’s, as LHU currently has two wrestlers in the national rankings and sent six to Pittsburgh last season. The Bald Eagles are represented in the rankings by seniors Kyle Shoop (141) and Alex Klucker (157), who both slot in at no. 18 in the Dec. 9 FloWrestling rankings.
As far as the event is concerned, it should once again be an impressive spectacle. Red Lion wrestling coach Mike Catullo, who was formerly an assistant coach at the University of Maryland, drew high praise from Moore in how he’s set up exciting Division I wrestling matchups in a high school gym for two years now.
“It’s a great environment,” Moore said Tuesday. “Mike Catullo and his staff down there, the Red Lion administration, they do a great job promoting the event. Bringing in some extracurriculars with the lights show, the DJ, the announcer, it’s just a great environment.”
Last year the dual against Arizona State broke an attendance record for Red Lion’s Fitzkee Center, as 2,712 fans witnessed Lock Haven’s win in person. This should once again be a well-attended event, giving District III wrestling fans a chance to see four natives of the district (three from Lock Haven and one from Navy) take part in this matchup.
Navy assistant coach Dan Neff is someone that Lock Haven fans are very familiar with. A former District III wrestler himself, Neff was a 2015 All-American at LHU. The connection between Neff and Lock Haven helped in setting this up, as Navy head coach Joel Sharratt looked for an opportunity to wrestle in the general vicinity of Philadelphia. This allows his squad to attend the Army-Navy football game Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
This contest should feature a lot of toss-up bouts. Lock Haven hopes to be paced by its four returning national qualifiers in Shoop, Klucker, DJ Fehlman (133) and Corey Hazel (184). Fehlman and Hazel earned major decisions against Central Michigan, but Shoop and Klucker each suffered setbacks against the Chippewas.
Shoop could particularly have an exciting matchup against Navy’s junior at 141, Cody Trybus. The reigning All-American edged out Trybus 4-3 when they wrestled last month at the Navy Classic.
Just like with any dual meet, winning the close matchups is everything. Lock Haven had a few tight bouts that were winnable, but just slipped away late in the season-opener. Now the Bald Eagles will try to close out strong in order to win their first dual meet of the year.