DEKALB, IL - It was a promising first day of the Mid American Conference championships for the Buffalo wrestling team, with four wrestlers earning a ticket to their respective championship bout and the team as a whole tied for second overall in the team scoring, just 6.5 points behind the leader.
"We are in the fight to win the MAC," said head coach Jim Beichner. "We'll hopefully be placing nine guys which is a best for us as a program. Right now, we're wrestling great. We're looking good and we feel good. We look like a team that wants to win the MAC championship."
Andrew Schutt earned his spot at 141 pounds thanks to a 5-2 win over Kent State's Chase Skonieczny. After earning a first-period penalty point, Schutt scored three near fall points and added another penalty point to advance to his first conference final. He will square off against Scott Mattingly of Central Michigan tomorrow.
"He's in good shape and preparing hard," Beichner said about his sophomore starter. "He just needs to win one more match and he's heading to the NCAA tournament"
Desi Green was the second Bull to make a final, and set a milestone in the process. After earning a 12-3 major decision over Northern Illinois' Vince Castillo, he then shut out Kent State's Marcel Clopton 4-0. The second win not only put him in the finals against Central Michigan's Donnie Corby, but it was career win number 100. He is just the sixth wrestler in Buffalo history to crack the triple digits, but he is the first ever to do so as a junior. In the previous matchup with Corby, Green won an 11-3 major decision, and with a similar effort he will take the podium as a back-to-back champion at 149 pounds.
The third finalist is Mark Lewandowski at 157 pounds. With the trip to the finals, he has already qualified for the NCAA tournament as the MAC was allocated three qualifiers at the 157-pound class. With a first-ever trip to the national tournament already secure, Lewandowski sets his sights on a critical matchup with Northern Illinois' Bryan Deutsch. In the last match between the two, Lewandowski came back and won a sudden victory overtime match, 8-6. To make the finals, Lewandowski squeaked out a 1-0 win over Ryan Cubberly of Central Michigan.
"Mark has been on fire, and wrestling with confidence," Beichner said. "He is in great shape with a great attitude and when all that happens at one time you can do big things."
The final championship contender for Buffalo will be junior John-Martin Cannon. Coming in as the third seed, Cannon upset second seed Ross Tice of Kent State 4-1 to continue a torrid late-season streak. He will have to pull one more upset tomorrow, though, as number one seed Mike Miller of Central Michigan will stand in his way.
Aside from the title contenders, six other wrestlers will place at least in the top four. Junior Kevin Smith was upset after five overtime periods but pinned Eastern Michigan's Filiberto Colon in the wrestlebacks to set up a meeting with Northern Illinois' Kevin Fanta, a wrestler he beat 7-2 in the regular season. Smith actually trailed Colon in the consolation semifinals, 9-6 in the third period, but put Colon on his back for key bonus points.
More bonus points were collected by sophomore Sean Walton. After losing to number one seed Nic Bedelyon of Kent State, Walton pinned Jared Germaine of Eastern Michigan in the first period. Tomorrow will be a match against Christian Cullinan of Central Michigan, a wrestler he lost to in overtime in their previous meeting.
Senior Jimmy Hamel won his first round match against Craig Kelliher of Central Michigan 3-2 before losing in double overtime to Brad Dieckhaus of Northern Illinois. Hamel will look to place third but must beat Kelliher again in wrestlebacks for the right to make the podium.
One of the best stories of the day came from senior Brian Sheehan, who entered the tournament wrestling two weight classes heavier than he had for most of the season, 197 pounds. After losing late to number two seed Erik Schuth of Ohio, Sheehan battled to a 5-3 win over Central Michigan's Chad Friend. In the third-place match tomorrow, Sheehan hopes to cap his career with a win over Norther Illinois' Mike Lukowski, a wrestler he snuck past in the regular season, 3-2.
The final placewinner is Brett Correll at heavyweight. There is a lot on the line tomorrow in the third place bout against Ohio's Jeremy Johnson, with the winner qualifying for the NCAA tournament and the loser having to possibly wrestle again for the fourth automatic qualifier that was granted to the MAC. After losing to Johnson in the first round, Correll made a terrific comeback in the first round of wrestlebacks. Down 4-3 late in the third period, Correll reversed Northern Illinois' Dakota Greenhaw before taking him down to seal a shocking 7-5 win.
Tomorrow will be the biggest day in program history, as three teams stand poised to win the championship. Buffalo is tied with Kent State at 43.5 points and both teams trail Central Michigan, who has 50 points. Fifth and sixth place matches will begin tomorrow at 11 am and the championship and consolation finals round will begin at noon. Live stats will again be available through the conference website MAC-Sports.com.
1. 50.0 Central Michigan
t2. 43.5 Buffalo
t2. 43.5 Kent State
4. 26.5 Ohio
5. 24.5 Northern Illinois
6. 10.0 Eastern Michigan