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 Pounds – Max 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 Pounds – Justin 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 Pounds – Blake 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 Pounds – John-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 Pounds – Tony 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.”