PHILADELPHIA, PA - 17,289 fans were on-hand for the first two sessions of the 81st annual NCAA Wrestling Championships in Philadelphia all day Thursday, and Buffalo had a solid showing, with five qualifiers still alive in the consolation rounds and only one eliminated thus far. As a team, Buffalo won four matches overall and after the first day is in 33rd place overall with 8.0 points.
Kevin Smith was a late addition to the NCAA tournament, receiving an at-large bid, but he quickly proved that he was ready to chase his All-American hopes early on, beating Thomas Mitchell of Liberty in the first round. Smith, making his second appearance in the national tournament, score a takedown and an escape in the second period and held Mitchell (15-10 overall) to just two escapes to get a 3-2 victory.
With season win number 35 in the books, Smith then faced Andrew Hochstrasser of Boise State, the number two overall seed in the bracket. The two wrestlers met last year, with Smith losing on a close decision, but this year there was little in doubt, as Hochstrasser built an 8-0 leading in to the third period and won a technical fall, 16-1. Smith's opponent in the consolation round will be Michigan's Zac Stevens, who earned a 5-2 win over Smith earlier this season.
Sophomore Mark Lewandowski gave the team its biggest boost of the morning session, coming back with a second-period pin against Josh Condon of Chattanooga in their 157-pound bout. After a takedown and ride out in the first period by Condon, Lewandowski started on top, and tilted Condon for the pin (3:37). Next up for the Depew, NY native was Bubba Jenkins of Arizona State, the fourth overall seed.
It was a wild affair suited for the national tournament. Lewandowski scored a takedown and two back points in the first period, and aside from two escapes he held Jenkins in check. Moving in to the third and final period with a 4-2 lead, Lewandowski scored a fast takedown but Jenkins came back with four points to tie before putting Lewandowski on his back for a quick pin. Next up will be Corey Mock of North Carolina tomorrow morning.
In the 141 bracket, sophomore Andrew Schutt drew third overall seed Borislav Novatchkov of Cal Poly. He was unable to find an offensive flow and he lost a 6-1 decision. It didn't get much easier in the wrestleback round as he faced Levi Jones of Boise State, who was 1-1 in the tournament and wrestling his third match of the day. Jones was stifling on top and controlled the pace the whole way through, winning a 6-3 decision to end Schutt's season.
Desi Green faced a slow-playing opponent in Eric Terrazas of Illinois. The match was tied 1-1 after the first three periods, and Terrazas scored a takedown in sudden-victory overtime to upset Green, who came in as the twelfth overall seed at 149 pounds. Green faced another Big 10 opponent in the wrestleback round, Daniel Zilverberg of Minnesota. Green was much more offensive and used three takedowns to put away his opponent 8-4. Next up will be Derek Valenti of Virginia, an opponent Green defeated earlier this season in a tight match.
Junior John-Martin Cannon has a terrific run through the Mid American Conference championship just to make it to his second straight NCAA tournament. In the first round he drew Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh (17-9 overall). After a scoreless first period, Hatchett started the period on top and turned Cannon for two back points, but an escape kept the Buffalo junior in range going in to the final period, 2-1. After an escape and takedown from Hatchett, Cannon popped out for one point and took his opponent down, nullifying the riding time against him in the process. With Cannon on top but down 5-4 with 15 seconds to go, he cut his opponent loose to try and get a tying takedown. He was unsuccessful and fell with a 6-4 decision.
In the wrestlebacks, Cannon had his hands full with Cal Poly's Ryan DesRoches, who entered the match 33-6 overall. Cannon led 5-4 after the first period thanks to two takedowns and an escape. DesRoches evened it up with a lone escape in the second period to leave it to the deciding third frame. With over a minute and thirty seconds of riding time against him, Cannon was looking for a late comeback. With DesRoches riding him high, Cannon shook him off for an escape to ensure at least overtime, but with just two seconds remaining he caught his opponent with a perfect ankle pick to earn a takedown to win it. First thing tomorrow, Eren Civen of Columbia will be Cannon's next opponent in his road through the consolation rounds
The final Buffalo qualifier who saw action on day one was heavyweight Brett Correll. The redshirt sophomore faced eleventh seed Tucker Lane of Nebraska in the first round. He more than held his own, even getting a shot in that was denied by Lane in the first period. In the second period, Correll started on bottom and was working his way out when he was returned hard to the mat, tweaking his knee. The injury plagued him for the rest of the match, and after his injury time ran out he was forced to default with a medical forfeit.
In the consolation round it was an even tougher draw, as Correll faced Ryan Tomei of Pittsburgh. Tomei is the sixth overall seed at heavyweight but lost in overtime to Kent State's Brendan Barlow in the first round. Tomei put the match away early with two first-period takedowns en route to a 10-1 major decision, eliminating Correll from the tournament.
There will be four qualifiers from Buffalo making the trip back for the third session Friday morning. The second day will start at 10:30 am, and live stats again will be available through the NWCA website.