‘Win no matter what’: Lehigh’s Josh Humphreys was primed for a run at an NCAA title
“My plan was to win no matter what,” said the Lehigh Mountain Hawks sophomore, when asked about his chances to claim the 157-pound NCAA Division I championship in 2020.
His confidence at this point in his college career flew sky high.
One year after advancing to within one round of an All-American opportunity at the Big Dance in Pittsburgh, Humphreys found himself in prime position to accomplish his stated goal.
He was wrestling well according to Lehigh head coach Paul Santoro. Santoro said his wrestler was dialed in and his swagger level was high.
“He took some hard losses early but wrestled well in both matches. He didn’t get upset and just stayed the course,” he said. “He is just so dang strong and flexible and wants to rip your head off on the wrestling mat.”
Humphreys also received a major boost to his mental edge after the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Tournament. Already a one-time conference champion, he emerged victorious once again despite a few drawbacks. Princeton’s Quincy Monday entered the title match as the nationally ranked No. 4 wrestler in the weight class. The pair already had history together from one year prior. Humphreys defeated Monday in a 13-8 decision in last year’s conference semifinals. Monday returned the favor with two wins (11-5 and 8-6) against his league rival earlier in 2020.
“I knew it was going to be a dog fight going in there and knew I could beat him on top and that is where I made my money,” said Humphreys, who won the Coaches Trophy as the most outstanding wrestler at the tournament, in an interview with USA Wrestling after the 7-0 victory.
This win earned him his NCAA automatic bid against Big 10 at-large bid Illinois’ Eric Barone (15-13). His Fighting Illini opponent entered well prepared after a year grappling some of the premier wrestling talent in the country. Barone boasted a win over Iowa All-American Kaleb Young in the Big 10 Tournament. This added to his cache of regular season tests. He participated in bouts against four of InterMat.com’s Top 20 ranked wrestlers in the weight class.
Humphreys resume read similarly to his opponent’s in terms of preparation. In addition to his three matches against Intermat.com’s No. 7 ranked wrestler (Monday), the sixth-ranked Hawk faced four of the site’s other Top 20 opponents. His 2-2 record against grapplers from Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, Missouri and Oklahoma State didn’t tell the entire story. His loses came by a combined three points.
“I definitely felt ready to go and was more prepared to wrestle than any tournament in my entire life,” said Humphreys.
An opportunity to test this new sharpness or strut his stuff never appeared. While spending time in his dorm room walking on egg shells having heard rumors COVID-19’s rapid spread could cancel the tournament, the news became official with a Twitter message from the NCAA on March 13. The coronavirus pandemic snatched away his chances as the NCAA called off the tournament
“I was just shocked and in disbelief. My coach tells me nothing matters until March and nationals and I got there then all my progress was swept under the rug like it was nothing. It kind of hurt,” he said. “I had watched a few of Barone’s matches but didn’t have a game plan per se. I noted a few things he could do and kept that in mind.
“I matched up with him pretty well even though everyone is pretty tough when you get to the tournament.”
Without the chance, Humphreys now faces a question in the offseason — to redshirt or not to redshirt? He said he wants to burn the opportunity to sit out a year and get stronger, but he doesn’t know when this will occur. So far, he is right where he thought he’d be in terms of his high expectations.
There’s no plan to switch weight classes, regardless of the decision.
“It is pretty easy to make weight in college honestly, unless I do something crazy and bulk up in the offseason I will stay where I am. We have practices twice a day. It is a blessing having people around me who know how to cut weight and keep me prepared to wrestle,” he said.
Contact Joe Albright at email@example.com.