photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.Com
A new feature that we will have on TOM is the “All-2000’s Team” for a respective school. We will go weight-by-weight to feature the best lineup that a team could put together comprised of wrestlers that were in action from the year 2000 to now. Their career could have started in the 1990’s, they just need to have one year of competition in the 2000’s. Each wrestler that is mentioned must have competed for one postseason at their weight class (even if it wasn’t the weight they were most known for).
We’ll kick off this new feature with a team that has a long, storied history of success and a robust and loyal fan following…so here’s Lehigh’s All-2000’s team.
125 – Darian Cruz (Allentown, PA) 2013-18
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2017 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (5th-2018; 1st-2017; 7th-2014), Three-time EIWA Champion
Cruz broke through and stopped a six-year NCAA Title drought for Lehigh with his NCAA title in 2017. He made the finals with an upset of soon-to-be World silver medalist Thomas Gilman (Iowa). Darian was able to earn his first All-American honor will competing as an unseeded, true freshman in 2014.
Second Team: Mario Stuart
133 – Mason Beckman (Transfer, PA) 2012-16
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time All-American (6th-2014; 6th-2015), 2014 EIWA Champion, Three-time EIWA finalist
A hard-nosed, consistent competitor, Beckman put together an excellent career while dealing with some incredibly difficult weight classes. Mason first qualified for nationals at 133 lbs, during his true freshman season, when he started the year at 125.
Second Team: Scott Parker
141 – Cory Cooperman (Easton, PA) 2002-06
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Three-time All-American (7th-2004; 3rd-2005; 3rd-2006), Three-Time EIWA Champion
Cooperman had the misfortune of competing in the same weight class as Teyon Ware (Oklahoma) and Nate Gallick (Iowa State). Ware accounted for Cory’s only two losses as a senior and Gallick defeated him twice as a sophomore. A two-time NCAA third-place finisher, Cooperman was known as one of the best technicians in the nation during his competitive days.
Second Team: Randy Cruz
149 – Dave Esposito (Matawan, NJ) 1996-01
Three-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time All-American (2nd-2001; 3rd-2000), Two-time EIWA Champion
Younger fans are probably more familiar with Esposito work with the Edge School of Wrestling out of New Jersey. A noted whiz on his feet, Dave is still the all-time career leader in takedowns for Lehigh with 377 and second with 137 during his 2000 season.
Second Team: Laike Gardner
157 – Derek Zinck (Upper Perkiomen, PA) 2002-06
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Two-time All-American (8th-2003; 5th-2006), 2003 EIWA Champion, Three-time EIWA finalist
One of the unsung stars of the great Lehigh teams of the mid-2000’s Zinck bookmarked his career with All-American finishes. Zinck was seeded in the top-11 at all four of his NCAA Championships, which was punctuated with a fifth-place finish in 2006.
Second Team: Mitch Minotti
165 – Troy Letters (Shaler, PA) 2002-06
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2004 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (3rd-2005; 1st-2004; 2nd-2003), Three-time EIWA Champion
Troy Letters has a remarkable run in 2004, losing only once en route to his NCAA title over four-time All-American Tyrone Lewis (Oklahoma State). Letters would go undefeated throughout the 2005 season until he was upset in the NCAA semis by Mark Perry (Iowa). If not for injuries as a senior, Letters would have likely added a fourth EIWA Championship and fourth top-three finish at the NCAA Championships to his resume.
Second Team: Brandon Hatchett
174 – Robert Hamlin (Jonesville, VT) 2009-13
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, Three-time All-American (2nd-2014; 4th-2013; 2nd-2012), Two-time EIWA Champion
Hamlin experienced one of the most rapid ascents to the top of the DI ranks in recent memory. As a redshirt freshman from Vermont, he went 0-2 at the NCAA Champions after placing fourth at the EIWA Championships. After moving up a weight class the following season, he won an EIWA title and went on to the first of two NCAA Finals.
Second Team: Brad Dillon
184 – Rob Rohn (Nazareth, PA) 1999-02
Three-time NCAA Qualifier, 2002 NCAA Champion, Two-time All-American (1st-2002; 5th-2000), 2000 EIWA Champion, Three-time EIWA Finalist
Rohn’s 2002 NCAA finals victory will go down as one of the craziest endings in the history of the event. On his way to getting teched by Josh Lambrecht (Oklahoma), Rohn pulled out a hail mary, in the form of a cement job and pinned the stunned Sooner.
Second Team: Nathaniel Brown
197 – Jon Trenge (Orefield, PA) 2000-05
Three-time NCAA Qualifier, Three-time All-American (3rd-2005; 2nd-2003; 2nd-2002), Three-time EIWA Champion
Jon was one of the best DI wrestlers to not finish his career as an NCAA champion. He defeated both NCAA finalists in 2000-01, before having to miss the remainder of the season with eye injuries. Trenge would go on to wear his trademark goggles for the final three years of his career.
Second Team: Joe Kennedy
285 – Zach Rey (Hopatcong, NJ) 2008-12
Four-time NCAA Qualifier, 2011 NCAA Champion, Three-time All-American (2nd-2012; 1st-2011; 3rd-2010), 2010 EIWA Champion, Four-time EIWA finalist
From the moment he stepped on the mat for Lehigh, Zach Rey was one of the top heavyweights in the nation, evidenced by his four trips to the EIWA finals. He had an epic series of matches against Ryan Flores (American/Columbia) which culminated in his NCAA Championship in 2011.
Second Team: Max Wessell