Zach Rey became Lehigh University‘s first heavyweight wrestling champion in 75 years at the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Saturday night.
The top-seeded Rey defeated No. 3 seed Ryan Flores of American University, 2-1, in the finals of the 285-pound weight class, making him the first since Howell Scobey won the heavyweight title for Lehigh at the 1936 NCAAs… and the 21st individual to win an NCAA title for the Mountain Hawks (the first since Troy Letters in 2004.)
Rey, a junior from Hopatong, N.J., brought a near-perfect 29-1 season record to the 2011 NCAAs. The one loss: to Flores in the title bout at the 2011 EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) championships. Flores, a junior originally from Clovis, Calif., had a 22-5 record prior to the Nationals.
The two big men from Eastern schools had met on the mat three times this season, with Rey winning two regular-season matches last fall.
How Rey got into the finals: 1st Rd: dec. unseeded Parker Burns (Campbell University), 6-1… 2d Rd: dec. unseeded David Marone (Virginia Tech), 3-1, SV1… Quarterfinals: injury default win over No. 5 Cameron Wade (Penn State)… Semifinals: dec. No. 2 Dom Bradley (Missouri), 2-1.
How Flores got into the finals: 1st Rd: pinned unseeded Ben Apland (Michigan), 1:58… 2d Rd: maj. dec. unseeded Kevn Lister (Columbia), 18-5… Quarterfinals: dec. No. 11 Tucker Lane (Nebraska), 5-2… Semifinals: dec. No. 2 Jarod Trice (Central Michigan), 4-0.
There was no scoring in the first period. In the second, Rey scored an escape with a shoulder roll into a stand-up ten seconds… and that was the extent of points put on the board in that period. For the third, Flores chose down, but Rey rode his EIWA rival, using a series of lifts and trips to maintain control. In a wild scramble with just 17 seconds left in the match, Flores attempted a reversal… but only managed an escape. With a riding time advantage of 1:33 making the score 2-1 for Rey, the Lehigh big guy won the match… and the 2011 NCAA heavyweight title.
Quotes from the champ:
- On avenging his EIWA title loss to Flores: “The first two times of wrestling this year I think I beat him by three or four points, and that was mainly because he wasn’t ready for my size and strength. He changed that come EIWA Finals. I’m not saying I took them lightly, but I was a little too confident going into that match… I didn’t score on flaws when I should have scored. So coming into this match, wrestling Ryan, I was ecstatic, because I was able to get my revenge for not being able to achieve the EIWA championship. But I would much rather have a NCAA championship than an EIWA championship.”
- Game-making, end-of-match scramble: “We got into a funky position in the third period. I knew just to hold onto that leg and try to roll through to get to my stomach and that’s what it turned out to be. He gave me a lot of riding time and helped me kill the clock in the third period.” After that scramble, my shoulder was a little hurt, but 17 seconds left, pretty tough to score on in a short amount of time, so I knew I was in a good spot.”
- On having two-time NCAA heavyweight champ Steve Mocco as a coach: “Brought a whole ‘nother level to my conditioning and fighting and just my confidence. Because nobody else in the country works out with a guy as good as I do every day, Steve Mocco. One of the best in the world. Working out with Steve made me tougher, be able to hand fight, use my strength, use my power, my size against other opponents. And it helped me big time to get to where I am now.
- The Lehigh legacy: “Lehigh is a great program, always will be, always was, and it’s great that we got another National champion for the team, the culture, the fans, everybody in the community of Lehigh wrestling. And, you know, we had two finalists, and we’ve come far — we didn’t have All-American for three to four years, now we have two finalists, three All-Americans. That’s amazing and we’re making huge strides to become the best team in the country.”
Rey’s coach weighs in: “Rey wrestled a great match,” said Lehigh head coach Pat Santoro. “Ryan Flores is a really good wrestler. It’s a tactical match. The scramble at the end was a little nerve racking but Zach held on.”
Nobody can bring Rey down: In 35 matches this season, Zach Rey was never taken down.
Rey-Flores, again? Bet on it. Both are juniors, so they have one more year of college wrestling left, and will undoutedly face each other on the mat in the 2011-2012 regular season… and perhaps in post-season competition as well.
2011 NCAA All-Americans — Hwt.:
1st: Zach Rey (Lehigh)
2d: Ryan Flores (American)
3d: Dom Bradley (Missouri)
4th: Jarod Trice (Central Michigan)
5th: Ricky Alcala (Indiana)
6th: Spencer Myers (Maryland)
7th: Tony Nelson (Minnesota)
8th: Levi Cooper (Arizona State)
For a recap of the finals, check out InterMat…. and TheMat.com. For complete, updated team standings, click here. Updated brackets, click here.
Want to know more? For the official 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling website, click here. For TheMat.com‘s D1 page, click here. For InterMat‘s D1 page — including live blog, daily recaps and links to photos — click here.
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