After four weight classes, the Navy wrestling team was tied with 19th-ranked Lehigh and seemingly on the verge of taking the lead.
However, Lehigh’s Jake Logan scored a two-point takedown in the final seconds to defeat Navy’s Sammy Starr in the 174-pound bout to help propel the visitors to a 21-16 victory at Alumni Hall on Saturday night.
It was the first Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association match of the season for the Midshipmen, whose dual meet record dropped to 1-5.
Starr came into the contest as one of Navy’s hottest wrestlers, having won three of four matches at the Virginia Duals last weekend. That said, Navy head coach Cary Kolat has seen what played out on Saturday too many times this season.
“He’s lost a couple of matches at the very end. He wrestles a really good match up until the last 20 seconds. You can’t win matches by trying to hang on,” Kolat said. “When it comes to movement, feel and having savvy out there, Sammie is probably one of the best on the team, but Sammie will try to strategize too much.”
Saturday’s dual meet began four weight classes earlier at 141 pounds and featured one of Navy’s best wrestlers on the season, sophomore Josh Koderhandt, who was 18-8 coming in. However, the Belleville, Illinois native found himself in trouble in the first period as Lehigh’s Malyke Hines used a bearhug to put Koderhandt on his back and in a 6-1 hole.
Koderhandt fought back in the third period but ended up losing, 9-5, much to his coach’s dismay.
“[Josh] wrestled to their style. He got outsmarted. He’s been beaten several times that way and he needs to start opening up. When he decides to open it up, he could be a national champion,” Kolat said.
Lehigh extended its lead to 6-0 after Manzona Bryant defeated Navy freshman Kaeman Smith, 6-2 at 149 pounds.
At 157, the Mids welcomed back junior Andrew Cerniglia to the lineup after a multi-week absence due to a variety of injuries. His opponent, Max Brignola, was ranked No. 26 nationally at 149 pounds, but moved up a class due to an injury to teammate Josh Humphreys, who ranked fifth.
Cerniglia struck first with a two-point takedown late in the first period and leveraged over a minute of riding time to pull out a 4-1 victory that got him some mild praise from Kolat.
“He’s got to win ugly matches, and I think he did that tonight,” Kolat said of Cerniglia.
Senior Val Park notched his 17th win of the season at 165 pounds with a 5-0 victory over Luka Frinzi to tie the match 6-6, and to also earn him a lukewarm complement.
“I would love to see him wrestle that way every single time. I’m tired of seeing him upside down. Hopefully that [win] fuels him,” Kolat said.
After the pivotal 174-pound match, Lehigh got victories at 184 from No. 19 Tate Samuelson and at 197 from No. 3 Michael Beard. Samuelson notched an 8-2 decision of David Key, while Samuelson scored a 21-6 technical fall over Jacob Koser.
With the Mountain Hawks leading 17-6 in the dual meet, the Mids looked to their best wrestler of the season, heavyweight Grady Griess, to give them a spark. The 20th-ranked junior did that and almost much more.
Leading 3-1 with less than a minute left in the final period, Griess used a well executed cradle to put over No. 31 Nathan Taylor on his back for what appeared to be a match ending move.
“I thought it was a pin,” Griess said matter-of-factly.
Kolat agreed, but also acknowledged that even with a pin there it probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the match. Without the pin, Griess’ 9-1 decision pulled Navy within seven points of Lehigh, 17-10.
However, the Mountain Hawks added to their lead at 128 pounds when Carter Bailey strung together three near falls in the final period against Navy’s Grant Treaster to turn a 3-3 tie into a convincing 16-3 victory.
Lehigh opted to forfeit the 133-pound weight class, bringing the final score to 21-16.
Moving forward, Griess is confident the Midshipmen are getting closer to meeting the team’s expectations.
“There’s just a lot of little things we need to work on to put us over the top.”
Navy will get a chance to get back into the win column this weekend as it hosts EIWA opponents Hofstra (Saturday, 1 p.m.) and Binghamton (Sunday, 2 p.m.).