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Alumni: Salamanca’s Haas Set For Big Finish at Lehigh

After what he calls “a lot of ups and downs,” Ben Haas thinks he’s found the right spot on the Lehigh University wrestling team.

Haas, a 2011 Salamanca High School graduate and New York State wrestling champion that year, started this season competing at 174 pounds. After a few matches, it just wasn’t feasible.

A redshirt junior, he took last year off from dual matches, practicing and entering in open tournaments. But over the summer, he got bigger, and found cutting the weight to 174 too difficult to pull on a regular basis.

He came back from an open tournament “16, 17 pounds over” weigh-in and knew he had to ask his coaches to move up.

“I was on a diet plan, I was running extra and stuff and I just sat down and talked with them and they were surprisingly (supportive),” he said while on a short break home last week. “They want me to perform well as well and the main goal is to not win in dual meets and these open tournaments. The goal is place at nationals. If I want to go and make weight two days in a row, I wouldn’t be able to do it at 174. I wouldn’t make weight the second day of a tournament, to be honest.”

So he jumped up to 197, where he started last Dec. 20, at Oklahoma University. In Norman, he defeated Oklahoma’s Brad Norman by a 6-2 decision. The No. 13 Mountain Hawks scored a 30-7 win over the No. 8 Sooners heading into the holidays.

“I DID WELL,” Haas said of his victory. “That kid’s a good kid. It’s just I know I can do better.”

Haas received a start over John Bolich (senior, No. 15 in InterMat rankings), but isn’t ready to consider himself a starter yet. Both will perform at the Southern Scuffle today and tomorrow in Chattanooga, Tenn., likely to impact the competition.

Entering the second half of the season at 7-2, Haas said he feels better at 197, where he hopes to pursue his goal of becoming an All-America.

“That’s everyone’s goal and that’s a realistic goal for me, I think, this year,” he said. “It’s nice to just focus on wrestling. I’m not a weight-cutter. I’m a wrestler first, so it’s nice to put that ahead of weight cutting.”