Buffalo Earns Four NCAA Qualifiers at the MAC Championships – Lewandowski, Cannon, Roulo and Soria

 
 

Mark Lewandowski, John-Martin Cannon and Max Soria have all wrested at the NCAA tournament in the past. And they all will do so again in Des Moines, as they punched their tickets at the MAC Championships this weekend in their home gym. Joining them on the road to Iowa will be Blake Roulo, who came into the event seeded sixth, but who upset the #2 and 3 wrestlers in the 149-pound bracket to finish second.

Lewandowski entered the weekend as the number three seed at a weight with only two guaranteed qualifying spots for Nationals. However, the senior made his way to the finals with an opening round victory over Jacob Davis of Eastern Michigan and a semifinal win against Missouri’s Zach Toal. After dropping a decision to Central Michigan’s Mike Ottinger in the finals, his day wasn’t done as he faced Caleb Marsh of Kent State in a “true second” tilt, with the victor getting the trip to NCAAs. Lewandowski prevailed 4-1 to secure his spot in the field.

Soria, Photo by BV

A year ago, Soria traveled with Lewandowski out to St. Louis for Nationals after earning the MAC’s final qualifying slot with a fourth place conference showing. He needed to at least match that performance this weekend to return to NCAAs and he did just that, taking fourth as the #5 seed.

Cannon came into the tournament in the fourth spot in the bracket, but rode an upset of top-seeded Todd Porter of Missouri to the title bout. He was upended by Cody Walters of Ohio there, but will be headed back to the Nationals after last year’s redshirt season.

As a team, Buffalo took seventh place, with Missouri bringing home top honors. The Tigers, in their first season in the MAC, broke Central Michigan’s long grasp on the MAC conference crown.

MAC Preview: Host Buffalo Looking to Capture Automatic NCAA Bids on Sunday

 
 
It’s Missouri’s first year in the MAC and the former Big 12 school comes into the conference tournament as the favorite. The Tigers feature six wrestlers pre-seeded #1 with the four other starters all in the top 4 in their classes.

For Buffalo, the host team, a trio of NCAA qualifiers look to return to the biggest tournament of the year.  In the 2012 MAC tournament, Max Soria rode a strong performance to a fourth place finish and a spot at Nationals.  The 125-pound bracket once again has four automatic bids this year and Soria earned the fifth seed.  The field is challenging, led by the nation’s #1 grappler, Alan Waters of Missouri as well as top 20 competitor Christian Cullinan of Central Michigan.  Soria lost 2-0 to Cullinan but hasn’t faced Waters or the other two wrestlers seeded above him, Steve Mitcheff of Kent State and Jared Germaine of Eastern Michigan, this season.  Can he make another strong March run to get back to Nationals?

Lewandowski, Photo by BV

Joining Soria at the NCAAs a year ago was 165-pounder Mark Lewandowski.  To get a guaranteed spot at that event again, the senior, who is 28-6 this season, will need to place first or second.  The Buffalo wrestler received the #3 seed, with Central Michigan’s Mike Ottinger and Missouri’s Zach Toal above him.  He has had a number of tight battles with Ottinger, including a 2-1 loss earlier this campaign. Head coach Jim Beichner felt early on that Lewandowski could make some noise in March, as he did when he came within one victory of All-America status a few years ago.

Another wrestler who could make his presence felt in Des Moines is 174-pounder John-Martin Cannon.  The senior has been hampered with injuries this season, but is looking to make a run in his last weeks of college wrestling.  He is seeded fourth in a class that has qualified five spots for Nationals.  The bracket is full of solid wrestlers, as six different entrants have been in the national rankings at some point this season.

While 174 pounds will send a number of grapplers forward, there is just one automatic slot at 141.  That was earned for the conference by Northern Iowa’s Joey Lazor.  Looking to take that spot away is Buffalo’s Erik Galloway, who moved up from 133 in mid-January.  The transfer from Pittsburgh recently defeated the third seed Kevin Fanta of Northern Illinois.

Another transfer, Angelo Malvestuto (from Virginia Tech), missed a portion of the season, but recently returned to the lineup at 197.  He sits in the #5 position and is looking to finish a few places higher, as the top three advance to Des Moines.

Also aiming to finish high on the podium this weekend for Buffalo will be 149-pounder Blake Ruolo, who was pre-seeded sixth as well as those sitting in the seventh slot for the Bulls – Justin Farmer (133), Wally Maziarz (157), Tony Lock (184) and Justin Heiserman (heavyweight).

Wrestling will begin on Sunday, March 10 with quarterfinal action at 10 a.m. at Alumni Arena on Buffalo’s campus.  The finals are scheduled for 5:20 p.m..

MAC Pre-Seeds Are Released; Galloway, Lewandowski and Cannon in the Top Four for Host Buffalo

(Courtesy of buffalobulls.com)

The following are the pre-seeds for the MAC Championships, which will be held in Buffalo this weekend.  Leading the way for the Bulls are Erik Galloway (#2 at 141), Mark Lewandowski (#3 at 165) and John-Martin Cannon (#4 at 174).  Returning NCAA qualifier Max Soria (125) and Angelo Malvestuto (197) are both pre-seeded fifth.

The full list is below:

125:
1) Alan Waters, Missouri
2) Christian Cullinan, Central Michigan
3) Steve Mitcheff, Kent State
4) Jared Germaine, Eastern Michigan
5) Max Soria, Buffalo
6) Ryan Jauch, Northern Iowa
7) Kevon Powell, Ohio
8)Derek Elmore, Northern Illinois

133:
1) Nathan McCormick, Mizzouri
2) Scotti Sentes, Central Michigan
3) Levi Wolfensperger, Northern Iowa
4) Nick Smith, Northern Illinois
5) Mackenzie McGuire, Kent State
6) Vince Pizzuto, Eastern Michigan
7) Justin Farmer, Buffalo
8)Joey Munoz, Ohio

141:
1) Joey Lazor, Northern Iowa
2) Erik Galloway, Buffalo
3) Kevin Fanta, Northern Illinois
4) Nick Hucke, Missouri
5) Scott Mattingly, Central Michigan
6) Seth Schaner, Eastern Michigan
7) Dillon Kern, Kent State
8)Kagan Squire, Ohio

149:
1) Drake Houdasheldt, Missouri
2) Donnie Corby, Central Michigan
3) Bart Reiter, Northern Iowa
4) Andrew Romanchik, Ohio
5) Rob Jillard, Northern Illinois
6) Blake Roulo, Buffalo
7) Mike Shaw, Eastern Michigan
8)Andrew Candillo, Kent State

157:
1) Kyle Bradley, Missouri
2) David Bonin, Northern Iowa
3) Aaron Sulzer, Eastern Michigan
4) Spartak Chino, Ohio
5) Lucas Smith, Central Michigan
6) Andrew Morse, Northern Illinois
7) Wally Maziarz, Buffalo
8)Tommy Sasfy, Kent State

165:
1) Mike Ottinger, Central Michigan
2) Zach Toal, Missouri
3) Mark Lewandowski, Buffalo
4) Caleb Marsh, Kent State
5) Harrison Hightower, Ohio
6) Jake Davis, Eastern Michigan
7) Sam Bennett, Northern Illinois
8)Jarrett Jensen, Northern Iowa

174:
1) Todd Porter, Missouri
2) Cody Walters, Ohio
3) Sam Wheeler, Kent State
4) John-Martin Cannon, Buffalo
5) Craig Kelliher, Central Michigan
6) Cody Caldwell, Northern Iowa
7) Matt Mougin, Northern Illinois
8)Phillip Joseph, Eastern Michigan

184:
1) Ben Bennett, Central Michigan
2) Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa
3) Mike Larson, Missouri
4) Casey Newburg, Kent State
5) Michael Duckworth, Ohio
6) Khodor Hoballah, Eastern Michigan
7) Tony Lock, Buffalo
8)Bryan Loughlin, Northern Illinois

197:
1) Dustin Kilgore, Kent State
2) Brent Haynes, Missouri
3) Nick Whitenburg, Eastern Michigan
4) Phillip Wellington, Ohio
5) Angelo Malvestuto, Buffalo
6) Parker Settecase, Northern Illinois
7) Taylor Ketteman, Northern Iowa
8)Jackson Lewis, Central Michigan

285:
1) Dom Bradley, Missouri
2) Jarod Trice, Central Michigan
3) Jeremy Johnson, Ohio
4) Blayne Beale, Northern Iowa
5) Jared Torrence, Northern Illinois
6) Keith Witt, Kent State
7) Justin Heiserman, Buffalo
8)Chris Eggert, Eastern Michigan

Binghamton's Donnie Vinson Takes Second at the Midlands Tournament at 149 Pounds

Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson has accomplished quite a bit in the past few years.  A third place finish at the NCAA tournament. The CAA Wrestler of the Year honors. A win over Cornell’s Kyle Dake.

But there was a wrestler who got the best of Vinson in both his sophomore and junior seasons – Columbia’s Steve Santos.

This weekend, Vinson got another chance at Santos and took full advantage. In the semifinals of the prestigious Midlands tournament, Vinson topped the Lion wrestler, 6-1.

In the finals, Vinson dropped a 3-1 decision to Virginia Tech’s Nick Brascetta, who had an extraordinary tournament, defeating former All-Americans Nick Lester of Oklahoma and Montell Marion (a post grad from Iowa) prior to the title bout.

Against Vinson, Brascetta jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period with a takedown with less than 45 seconds left. The wrestlers traded escapes in the second and third periods to result in a 3-1 decision for the Hokie wrestler.

Vinson was the only finalist from the New York State Division I squads at the 50th Annual Midlands, but not the only placer. Santos took fourth at 149 while Buffalo had a pair of medalists – Mark Lewandowski (sixth at 165) and John-Martin Cannon (fourth at 174).

 

Buffalo Head Coach Jim Beichner Discusses the Lineup, Schedule and More for 2012-13

NCAA photos by Boris V

Buffalo featured a young team a year ago, as 10 freshmen took the mat for the squad in dual meets during the season.  At the end of the campaign, the Bulls sent two wrestlers – Max Soria (125) and Mark Lewandowski (165) to the NCAA tournament.  Both qualifiers will be back, as will former NCAA participants who redshirted a year ago (John-Martin Cannon and Andrew Schutt).  With the addition of some impact transfers and a solid recruiting class, Coach Jim Beichner and his staff are looking for big things in 2012-13.

Beichner talked to New York Wrestling News about his team’s outlook, beginning with a look at the potential lineup.

125 PoundsMax Soria returns after his NCAA appearance a year ago.  But he has some competition – notably from his twin brother Mike, as well as Ryan Howes, a Division III transfer.

Coach Beichner: “Max is the frontrunner based on last season, but his twin brother Mike is also there.  Both are very talented and train together all the time.  We’ll have to see how that shakes out when the UB Invitational comes about.  It’s interesting with them – they’re what they call ‘mirror twin’ brothers, which is extremely rare.  If you look in the mirror, everything about them is exactly opposite.  It probably would confuse some people – one wrestles with a right leg lead, one left leg lead. I expect both to see time on the mat and Howes may as well.”

133 PoundsJustin Farmer is back after holding the 133 job in 2011-12 but he will be challenged by former 125 starter Sean Walton and Pittsburgh transfer Erik Galloway.

Coach Beichner:  “Justin Farmer would probably tell you that he didn’t have the kind of year we expected.  He’s a great kid and a really hard worker who is easy to root for.  We’ll have to wait and see because two other guys are vying for the spot.  Walton will certify at 125 but will be up at 133 at least at the beginning of the season.  He’s been a starter for us and won some matches, including a big match at the Binghamton dual meet.  He cut a lot of weight in the past and we want to see what he will look and feel like up a weight.  Galloway is a redshirt sophomore who is talented and may turn out to be the guy.  It’s a good situation to have.”

141 Pounds – One of Buffalo’s most successful all-time wrestlers, Kevin Smith, graduated after manning this spot a year ago.  However, the Bulls will once again be strong in this class with the return of 2011 MAC champion Andrew Schutt, who redshirted last season.  Freshmen such as Tyler Newton and John Northrup may wrestle at this weight (or 149).

Coach Beichner: “Kevin Smith was a great soldier for us. He cut weight for four years and we wanted him going for his doctorate in physical therapy last year feeling healthy. So we made the decision for him to go 141 and we were fortunate to be able to redshirt a guy like Schutt.  Schutt is a guy we expect to do extremely well.  He’s very dangerous.  That’s worth repeating – very dangerous. He’s probably one of the strongest kids in the program and with the power he has, he can pin you in a number of different ways. We’re really happy to have him back.”

149 PoundsBlake Ruolo, a four-time champion at the NHSCA Nationals while in high school, went 22-13 in his first season at the college level.   Another accomplished recruit, two-time New York state champion Jimmy Kloc from Iroquois, could push to get on the mat as well.

Coach Beichner: “Blake had a good offseason.  Like a lot of freshmen, he had a difficult transition to college, but he seems to have made a lot of adjustments.  His progress over the summer puts him as the guy to beat this weight class. I think he should be ready to step up.  Jimmy Kloc is one of the most talented kids we’ve ever recruited.  He’ll need to make the transition to the grind, the training with a group of athletes that are better.  It’s so different from being the king of the room, where you can beat everyone, even when you’re a small guy.  We’ll probably wind up redshirting Jimmy to let him get a year under his belt, but if he’s the best guy, he’ll be in the lineup.”

157 Pounds – This will be another competitive weight for the Bulls with a few experienced wrestlers and a young standout in the mix. Wally Maziarz, who captured 13 wins in 2012, will be a sophomore for the Bulls.  He will try to hold onto the spot while former RIT transfer Dom Montesanti, Massachusetts native Matt Dehney, Oklahoma transfer Clay Reeb and rookie Chris Nevinger, a three-time New York state champion, enter the fray.

Coach Beichner:  “I consider Wally Maziarz to be a workhorse.  He didn’t achieve what he wanted to in high school.  In fact, he he didn’t qualify for the states even though he was good enough to be there.  He became such a driven athlete because of that. Last year, he did whatever he could for the team.  He had some flashes of brilliance and he had some flashes of not so great too.  He needs to stay toward the brilliance.

Montesanti is a competitor – wiry, gangly and kind of unorthodox.  You never know what you’ll get, but he’s very capable.  We also have guys like Matt Dehney and Clay Reeb, who have wrestled some good matches.  And there’s Nevinger.  He’s a perfect fit for this weight class — great credentials and very strong.  He’s at the beginning of the learning curve, acclimating to Division I wrestling.  He has all the talent and abilities and it’s a matter of time before he’s out there competing for us.”

165 Pounds: Mark Lewandowski made the Round of 12 in 2011 at NCAAs, leading eventual national champion Bubba Jenkins late into the third period of their match.  He won 32 bouts while dealing with injuries in 2012, and looks to finish his career on a high note.  Jeff Palmeri may see time at this weight or at 174 and freshman Ryan Therrien is doing some good things in open rooms, according to Beichner. Former Top 100 recruit Jake Waste, who wrestled at 174 and 184 last year and went 24-9, is making the transition to 165 as a redshirt in 2012-13.

Coach Beichner: “Lewandowski has been an extremely good leader for us.  He’s a solid student, a hard worker and a good person. I can’t say enough good things about him, but I would like to be able to add “All-American” to his description because he’s good enough.  He had Bubba Jenkins beat two years ago in the Round of 12 match.  With about a minute left, he got cemented and pinned right on the edge. He moved up a weight last year and had some injuries that kept haunting him.  We hope he’s through those injuries because a healthy Mark Lewandowski can beat anyone.”

174 PoundsJohn-Martin Cannon took a redshirt for Buffalo and had a lot of success, including a fourth place finish at the Midlands and around 35 wins, according to Beichner.  Expectations are very high for his final college season.

Coach Beichner:  “[Cannon’s] redshirt year was phenomenal.  He finished higher at Midlands than any athlete we’ve ever had and I think I would say it was the best redshirt year we’ve seen.  When we looked at last year’s rankings and the wins he had, we think he would have been seeded in the top 7 at the NCAAs last year.  I know quite a few other coaches were talking about how impressed they were with him.  We have complete confidence in him.  Working with [assistant coach] Matt Lackey has been a big difference maker and we believe he’s capable of placing high this year.”

184 PoundsTony Lock completed his career at Pioneer High School with an undefeated state championship season and then topped it off by capturing the title at the NHSCA Senior Nationals.  A Top 100 recruit according to Intermat, Lock will suit up for Buffalo as a freshman.

Fellow first-year grappler Jarred Lux, a Pittsburgh native who has impressed the staff, may see time at 174 or 184 while Justin Lozano, who competed as a rookie last season despite some injuries, will take a redshirt.  Beichner raved about Lozano’s work ethic and expects him to make an impact in the future.

Coach Beichner:  “Tony Lock is a great kid and he’s deceiving for a big guy. He moves like a small guy when he’s tested and pushed. He’s also a really smart wrestler with great mat sense.  There will be a transition but we expect him to do well.  He came in during the summer, took a course and trained for six weeks.  He came a long way even during that time.  We’re really excited about him.”

197 Pounds – Virginia Tech transfer Angelo Malvestuto will fit in immediately at 197 after winning over 20 matches for the Hokies a year ago.  Zach Ward will compete as well although he also may see time down at 184 pounds.

Coach Beichner: “We struggled a little because of youth at 197 last year.  I’m happy to say that we picked up Angelo, who will be a sophomore.  We think he’ll be an impact player for us right away.  The nice thing is that he can go out and score bonus points for your team and we consider 197 to be a critical weight class for bonus points.”

285 Pounds – Three wrestlers are in the mix to start at heavyweight – veteran Jedd Mason, sophomore Justin Heiserman and Joe Manna.

Coach Beichner:  “Jedd Mason has been a starter and while he hasn’t had the kind of career he wanted, he has the opportunity to step up and make a difference.  Heiserman had good credentials out of high school but throwing him into a schedule like ours at 197 was a challenge.  He’s up around 250-255 pounds now.  He looks like a heavy and wrestles like one.  Joe Manna transferred in after playing football.  He’s working his way back, but isn’t ready for the starting lineup yet.”

A few more questions . . .

You’ve had successful Takedown Cancer events in recent years.  This season’s Takedown Cancer dual will feature Buffalo against Iowa. How did that come about?

“Coach [Tom] Brands and I had been swapping calls for a while.  We were scheduled to go out there to Iowa this year but something happened and it wasn’t going to happen.  Brands is true to his word, though, and since the change happened on their end, he decided to bring his team to our place this year.  We’re looking forward to having the Hawkeyes here in Western New York.   It continues a recent trend that we want to keep of having top teams come into our facility.

We’re also really happy Iowa will be here for the Takedown Cancer dual.  We hope the community shows up in large numbers for that match.  It won’t only be a great day of wrestling but it will be raising money for one or two families who have a child with cancer.   We’ve been able to give thousands of dollars to families in the past so that they can afford to support their child as the child goes through cancer treatments.  We want people to embrace the cause – fill the stands, buy tickets and raffles.  Doing the Takedown Cancer fundraisers has changed my perspective on life and I think if people come to the Iowa match they will feel extremely good knowing the money they spent allowed them to see great wrestling but more importantly went into the pockets of people who really need the help.”

What are some of the other highlights of the schedule?

Coach Beichner: “In the past, critics said our schedule wasn’t strong enough, but we’ve changed that.  I think it’s the most challenging dual meet season we’ve ever put together.  We want our guys to embrace it and win with this schedule and we believe we can.

We’re looking forward to the UB Open, which we’ve turned into an invitational. We will run it like Midlands where redshirts are allowed to pay their own way and transportation, but we will have a team score. It’s new for us and exciting.

We’ll be taking five guys to Midlands while the rest will go to the Lock Haven Invitational.  We want our studs to be at tournaments like the Midlands and after that we’ll be at the Virginia Duals.  We were eighth and seventh the past two years at Virginia Duals and we think we can do a lot better.”

What are some of your team’s goals this year?

Coach Beichner:  “Our goals really don’t change that much from year to year, truthfully.  We want MAC champions and we want All-Americans.  We haven’t had enough All-Americans.  I’d love to see a guy like Cannon on the stand this year, right up to the #1 spot.  I’d love to see the same for Mark Lewandowski and to see Schutt as an All-American.  We have four returning national qualifiers and an awful lot of young, talented guys who are ready to go.  I think with the transfers we’ve added, we have the potential for a great season.”