Has the Window Closed?

Talk about the champions, or the Top 25 nationally-ranked team!
TMH
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Has the Window Closed?

Post by TMH » Sun Jun 28, 2020 5:46 pm

In the mid to late 80s , I believe, I became fascinated with the fact that a small, private academically elite school could not only compete with the big boys but somewhat dominate in each of the three biggest sports. Football had Notre Dame. Basketball had Duke and baseball had Stanford. Instead of holding these schools back, their academic reputation was used as a recruiting asset. Every elite athlete who valued education had those schools on their short list. Athletics did nothing to diminish their academic reputation. Instead it enhanced their national reputation for overall excellence. I was pretty vocal in believing that Lehigh had the unique opportunity to filling that niche in wrestling. We had a solid program, a rich history, a rabid fan base. The only thing missing was a full commitment from the University to not only succeed but to excel.

Then the "dark period" occurred in the early to mid 90's. We not only lost a generation of fans but I believe the window of opportunity to be "that school" was shut. By the time we re-merged the world had changed. Penn took advantage of the niche being vacant and won 4 titles. After a few Lehigh titles, Cornell found it's momentum. Soon after bigger academically elite schools enhanced their wrestling programs like VT and NC and the short list got much longer.

Nothing is impossible going forward but I continue to wonder...what if?


drd5748
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by drd5748 » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:41 pm

>>>>>By the time we re-merged the world had changed. Penn took advantage of the niche being vacant and won 4 titles. After a few Lehigh titles, Cornell found it's momentum. Soon after bigger academically elite schools enhanced their wrestling programs like VT and NC and the short list got much longer. Nothing is impossible going forward but I continue to wonder...what if?

.... Rather than wonder 'what if'? why not celebrate that Lehigh's won NINE EIWA titles since Penn, not a few

.... These are cold stone, concrete accomplishments since Pat fixed new issues from 2007-09:

Lehigh ranks 7th in Top 10 dual teams, 2009-2020 (with 7 + one 11th)
12- Iowa
11- Penn St
10- Ohio St
10- Okla St
9- Cornell
9- Missouri
7- LEHIGH
7- Minnesota
7- Va Tech

6-Michigan; 6-Nebraska; 5-NC State ; 4-Illinois; 3-Iowa St (ISU?); 3-Pitt; 2-Ariz St (ASU?);
2-Boise St; 2-Oklahoma (HUH?);2-Rutgers (RUTGERS??);1-C.Michigan; 1-Maryland;1-N. Carolina;
1-N. Iowa; 0-Wisconsin (HUH??)

Do most fans realize LU's had more Top 10 dual teams than Wisc, UNI, UNC, Rutg, Okla COMBINED !???

RANK: 5th in having 3+ A/As min. 7x in 9 prior yrs (2011-19) … tied with Ohio St, Va Tech, Minnesota (7 ea)
*next are : 6-Missouri, 5 ea-MI, NE; 4-ILL; 3-ISU, NCS, ASU

5th, most Rd12s prior 2 yrs (11)…15-OhSt, PS; 13-OkSt, IA; 11-LU, MO; 10-MI, MN, 9-NE; 8-CU, RU, NCS
8th, most Rd12s last 4 (21) ….

**9th in most Wins vs Top 15 dual teams (23) (2009-19) .…. next: 16-MI, 14-VT, 11-ILL
..... new LU total = 26 after 2020

….. good so far, but don’t other schools do better at the highest NCAA individual finishes?

Lehigh is 6th in NCAA finalists, 2011-2020 (tied w/Minn, 7 ea) …next: 6-MO, ILL 5 ea-Mich, NCS; 4 ea- ASU, Okla, Edin; 3 ea- NW, NE. Rutgers, Va Tech, NW ….Lehigh’s 7 is more than Nebraska, Va Tech combined

9th in A/As (26) from 2010-19 ……..25-NE; 24-MI; 23-IL; 20-WI; 18-OK; 16-ISU; 15-NW

9th in Overall Recruiting (since 2010)………….…… ahead of ISU, Okla, Ill, MO
This year’s Lehigh Class has been ranked 10th by Flo Wrestling

10th-most in Indiv. NCAA titles 2011-19 (2 ea - tied with ISU, MN, MI, OK, RU …. (1 ea- NE, VT, NW, UNI)
Last titles for 2011-Nebraska; 2012-Michigan; 2013-Minnesota

One of just 10 schools with five straight NCAA Top 15 teams during 2015-19

One of 10 programs with an AA in 10 straight seasons.

One of 2 programs since 2010 to beat both an NCAA team champion & National Dual winner (same year)
(Lehigh and Iowa); LU beat Cornell (’10-11) and Ohio State (’14-15)

Most EIWA Coach-of-Yr honors since award began in 1994 (2 or more): 5-Pat Santoro (Lehigh);
4-Greg Strobel (Lehigh); 4-Rob Koll (Cornell); 3-Roger Reina (Penn); 2- Jay Weiss (Harvard)

I for one am damn proud of what Lehigh has CONSISTENTLY ACCOMPLISHED, vs. focusing on short term scab picking. DRDiehl '70
TMH
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by TMH » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:26 pm

Denny,

I knew the data would be flying after I posted but I like data. I have absolutely no problem acknowledging that Lehigh wrestling is in a very good place and I have no problem agreeing that we have been blessed with some outstanding coaches.

Where we may disagree is the gap between very good and excellent/elite. We are at a place now where we should continually challenge for Top 10 at Nationals and that's certainly nothing to sneeze at. When I alluded to those small, private, academic elite institution's success, Notre Dame won a national championship, Duke won 2 two and Stanford won 2 in that short span of time. Is it possible that if Thad had been given the same amount of University backing in wrestling as those schools enjoyed in their respective sports that we could have enjoyed similar success given that to best of my memory, there would have been no team better suited to entice academically driven "whales". Could that have changed our entire trajectory even today? Lastly, is that even possible today with all the high academic schools making that commitment today?

Just something to ponder during this extended down time.
Oracle
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by Oracle » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:10 am

IMO, you're both right.
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by jdalu75 » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:05 am

There's a lot there to respond to and I've been taking my time thinking about it. The one thing I'll point out in this post is that Penn was never really a national power at its peak from 1995-2000. Yes, they won four consecutive EIWA titles and finished 2nd a few times, but their peak nationally was a tie for 9th, in 2000. That's in contrast with the current Cornell regime that's been a regular in the Top 10 for 15 years.

I always felt that Penn took advantage of a softness in the EIWA in the 1990s, when Syracuse discontinued its program; Navy was declining; Princeton discontinued its program and then immediately restarted it, keeping it on life-support for more than a decade; and Cornell and Lehigh were adrift. Those six teams have won every EIWA team title except two since 1974. The goal in hiring Greg Strobel and approving no-need aid was to restore balance with Navy and Syracuse; seems a quaint notion 25 years later.

In answering the question "Has the Window Closed?", first the question of whether it was ever open needs to be addressed. Still thinking about that one.
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by mookie » Mon Jun 29, 2020 12:14 pm

From 1985-1994 Lehigh was 53-98-4 in duals and people quit caring. Strobel & Santoro have done a great job restoring the program to prominence. Now it would be nice to take the next step up to top 10.
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by jdalu75 » Mon Jun 29, 2020 1:31 pm

First, there are differences between football, baseball, and basketball compared to wrestling. The best from the first three sports go on to pro careers. Unless you consider MMA to be the pro successor to college wrestling, wrestlers get on with the rest of their lives after graduation. Notre Dame football, Duke hoops, and Stanford baseball are all way stations on the path to pro careers. Notre Dame is probably the best example of a "small" school with a great tradition in a sport. Duke excels in basketball, a sport where you need a tiny number of top players to excel at the highest level; most famously, Bill Bradley (he of the 485 SAT verbal score) almost single-handedly carried an ordinary Princeton team to the final four in the mid-1960s. Stanford has the warm weather needed for a major baseball program and is willing to lose its best players to the majors after three years (drafted players who wait until graduation to sign have no leverage against the pro teams).

Few EIWA teams have ever been in a position to challenge for the NCAA team title. Lehigh's never been in the chase. In 1979, when we finished third with 69+ points, we finished more than 50 points behind Iowa; in 2004 we were 46 back of Oklahoma State. In the 1950s Penn State and Pitt were good enough to challenge, and PSU won in 1953. Since then the only EIWA team that mounted a serious challenge was Cornell in 2011, in a season when Oklahoma State, Iowa, Minnesota, and Arizona State had all slipped back a bit and Penn State was still building.

If the window that you refer to is simply the Top 10, we've done that for long periods, but it's harder to crack the Top 10 than in the past because now more teams care about wrestling on a consistent basis. In the 1960s, the "small" programs that cracked the Top 10 were Lock Haven (4x), Northern Illinois, Cornell, Lehigh (6x), SIU-Carbondale (2x), Syracuse (2x), Ohio, Navy (3x), Army (2x), Air Force, East Stroudsburg, Portland State (3x), and Temple; maybe Colorado State and Colorado, Wyoming, Cal Poly (2x), and Pittsburgh (4x) if you count them as small.

"Small" Top 10 programs in the 2010s: Cornell (10x), Lehigh (2x), Boise State, American. That's unless Virginia Tech, Rutgers, and NC State can be considered small. The big guys showed up at the party and decided to stay and hog the cake and punch. And that hasn't just impacted the small programs. We're all old enough to remember when the elites were the two Okies and the two Iowas. How've Iowa State and Oklahoma been doing lately? Michigan State, home of the Milkoviches?

Could we have done better in Turner's era? Thad retired in frustration because he couldn't target aid; he claimed that he didn't need more money, just the ability to target it. Without that, by the mid-1980s he was losing guys every year that would have accepted his offers a decade earlier. That might have kept us consistently in the Top 10 a while longer. But he'd still have had the problems with his athletes needing majors other than "athletic studies" and the like. We never had the resources for program backup that the major schools had -- I'm remembering Denny's account of the early hours at one of the Grapple at the Garden events, seeing the power schools with platoons of support personnel to help set up workout equipment for their wrestlers. That's something we've never had and still don't. It's not just the tuition, room and board, plus the travel budget for major events. There's also the workout partners (read: unofficial coaches), athletic dorms, tutors, quiet summer jobs, frills and coddling that other schools can provide. Lehigh's already singled out wrestling as the premier program in its athletic department; there's a point beyond which no administration will go.
Oracle
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by Oracle » Mon Jun 29, 2020 3:05 pm

mookie wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 12:14 pm
From 1985-1994 Lehigh was 53-98-4 in duals and people quit caring. Strobel & Santoro have done a great job restoring the program to prominence. Now it would be nice to take the next step up to top 10.

>>>>>> Quite right. Top 10 is asking a lot. Not that it's out of the realm of possibility because it's not -- LU is knocking on the door, but consistently top 10 given who's already there is problematic. All but Cornell have the ability to offer $6,000/year stipend. I'll assume that's in addition to the 9.9 limit on targeted aid. If LU gave $6,000 in addition to say, a 33% ride, that would improve things We're only talking about not losing 1 quality kid a year. Would the $6,000 make the difference with 1 kid a year? Probably. Let's try it. Limit it to 20 kids in the program at a time = $120,000/year. Not enough to be considered a deal breaker. The U isn't even paying targeted scholarships now. Season ticket sales would cover virtually all of it.

Donors should lobby for it. Unless thinking out of the box is frowned upon?
TMH
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by TMH » Mon Jun 29, 2020 4:29 pm

mookie wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 12:14 pm
From 1985-1994 Lehigh was 53-98-4 in duals and people quit caring. Strobel & Santoro have done a great job restoring the program to prominence. Now it would be nice to take the next step up to top 10.
I'll take that to mean yes, that ship has sailed due in large part to the time frame you mentioned and that we should focus on goals that are more attainable but still very admirable. If so, I have no problem with any of that.

Much of my post was based on a philosophical difference I have with the University. Our mutual goal is to become prominent on a national scale. Aspiring to be very good at a lot of things is certainly not bad but it won't get anyone to notice you outside the Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh community. To do that we need to choose one or two areas and focus much of our resources in truly excelling there. Just a thought.
mookie
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Re: Has the Window Closed?

Post by mookie » Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:39 pm

I would also like for Lehigh to focus more resources on wrestling but outside of a hard core I just don't think that many care. The "hard core" is mostly alums from the 1960's and early 70's.
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