The first top-ten dual of the 2019-2020 wrestling season features a meeting of two historic programs — No. 10 Lehigh and No. 4 Oklahoma State —in the heart of Pennsylvania for what is expected to be a dramatic start to the regular season for the Mountain Hawks and the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State head coach John Smith will have his team compete against Drexel on Friday night in Philadelphia before driving north to battle Lehigh on Saturday, Nov. 16, in Stabler Arena, a venue that will host its first wrestling dual since 2016. With 11 total ranked wrestlers competing between the two teams, this is going to be a can't-miss Saturday dual, and PatriotLeague.tv will stream the entirety of the match at 1 p.m. ET. Here's everything you need to know about Lehigh and Oklahoma State as well as what a winning result might mean for each team moving forward.
Oklahoma State will show off a new lineup featuring proven veterans and talented underclassmen
Leading the way for Oklahoma State is No. 4 Nick Piccininni at 125 pounds, one of five ranked wrestlers on the roster and a veteran with three years of national tournament experience as well and two All-American honors. Piccininni is undefeated this season and has picked up bonus points in all three of his Open duals including a second-period pin against Jayden Carson of Little Rock. The Cowboy lightweight wrestler finished fifth in the NCAA tournament last year and could face a ranked wrestler from Lehigh in No. 17 Brandon Paetzell this weekend, an athlete he has not seen in college competition thus far in his career.
The Cowboys will also be expected to start ranked wrestlers No. 10 Kaden Gfeller at 141 pounds, No. 6 Boo Lewallen at 149 pounds, No. 5 Joe Smith at 174 pounds and No. 6 Dakota Geer at 184 pounds. Three of those four wrestlers have also earned All-American honors at one point in their careers, but only Smith will be expected to take on a ranked opponent against the Mountain Hawks. Lewallen is the only one of the four that did not wrestle in the postseason for the Cowboys last year as he battled injury, but having earned All-American in 2018, he'll be a name to watch as he makes his return.
At 133 pounds, true freshman Reece Witcraft will step in for last year's NCAA finalist Daton Fix who is out on an Olympic redshirt as well Kaid Brock, last year's 141-pounder who was going to drop down to 133 pounds until he tore his ACL. Witcraft won his weight at the Oklahoma City Open but will be tested against Lehigh's Nick Farro this weekend. At 157 pounds, Oklahoma State is expected to start Wyatt Sheets, and at 165, Travis Wittlake is the expected starter. Sheets is a returning at his weight and finished fourth at the Big Tens last year, while Wittlake will step on to the mat for his redshirt freshman season having earned a 16-2 record in open tournaments last year. At 197 pounds and heavyweight, the Cowboys have Anthony Montalvo and Austin Harris listed as projected starters, though Dakota Geer could bump up to 197 and put Montalvo at 184.
The Mountain Hawks have more ranked wrestlers than the Cowboys but have not beaten Oklahoma State in over a decade
Lehigh brings six ranked wrestlers into the dual, led by No. 2 Jordan Kutler at 174 pounds who is expected to take on Smith in the marquee match of the night. Kutler, who finished seventh in last year's tournament, will chase his third All-American honor in his final season with the Brown and White. A win against All-American Joe Smith on Saturday would be exactly the kind of start Kutler would be looking for in his fifth season as a Mountain Hawk.
No. 17 Junior Brandon Paetzell and No. 10 sophomore Josh Humphreys join Kutler in the Top 25 rankings at 125 and 157 pounds respectively, and all three Mountain Hawks picked up Journeymen Classic titles last weekend. Paetzell holds an undefeated record while Humphreys is 5-1 so far this year with his only loss coming against No. 9 Quincy Monday at the Princeton Open. Lehigh's 133-pounder and 285-pounders, No. 19 Nick Farro and No. 6 Jordan Wood will also take the mat on Saturday as ranked wrestlers with Wood, like Kutler, hoping to end the year with additional All-American honors after finishing on the podium last season. No. 16 Jake Jakobsen is also ranked for Lehigh at 197 pounds, and he holds a 3-2 record heading into the dual.
The remaining projected starters for the Mountain Hawks include Ryan Pomrinca at 141 pounds, Jimmy Hoffman at 149 pounds, Brian Meyer at 165 pounds and Chris Weiler at 184 pounds. Of the listed starters, only Meyer is new to the starting position and would make his debut on Saturday.
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As a team, the Mountain Hawks are 1-10 against the Cowboys, with their most recent loss coming in last year's dual 27-6. Kutler earned a win this last matchup, taking down Joe Smith 2-1. This matchup will likely occur again, and Lehigh will need Kutler to pull out the victory again if the team hopes to upset the Cowboys. A win for the Mountain Hawks would elevate them dramatically within the Top 10, while a win for the Cowboys would allow them to put a strong win on their resume and hold on to their spot at No. 4 nationally. The Mountain Hawks have not beaten Oklahoma State in a dual since 2008.
The match to watch will come at 174 pounds
Oklahoma State has the advantage based on team rankings in this dual, but with Lehigh's six ranked wrestlers expected to start against the Cowboys, the Mountain Hawks could be dangerous. One bout could determine the final outcome, and if there is one match to pay special attention to, it's 174 pounds. Lehigh's Jordan Kutler will likely take on Oklahoma State's No. 5 Joe Smith for a rematch from last year's dual and a battle for the rankings. Kutler beat Smith 2-1 the last time they wrestled, but they didn't have a chance to face each other in the postseason after Smith cut down to 165 for Big 12s and NCAAs. The Lehigh senior has a 2-0 advantage over Smith after also earning a 7-1 decision against the Cowboy veteran in 2017. Smith has not wrestled yet this year and will make his debut against the highly-ranked Mountain Hawk while Kutler has four matches under his belt this season, including a ranked win over Mikey Labriola and two pins against Sage Heller and Anthony Lombardo. The 174-pound weight class is one of just two weights that could feature two ranked wrestlers — the other one coming at 125 pounds — but this is the only top-ten match of the evening, and Kutler and Smith will likely put on a show.
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