PHILADELPHIA, PA - The Buffalo Bulls wrestling team bowed out on day two of the NCAA national tournament Friday, with Mark Lewandowski posting the best finish of the group of six, coming achingly close to becoming the first All-American since Kyle Cerminara in 2004. Lewandowski won three matches to place in the top 12 overall at 157 pounds.
It began, though, with Kevin Smith, who had a familiar face in his first match of the day with a bout with Zac Stevens of Michigan. The two had previously met at the Virginia Duals, where Stevens won a 5-2 decision. It was not as close this time around, as Stevens rode a hot streak in to the match and controlled the pace, riding Smith out for well over four minutes of riding time, winning an 8-0 major decision over the Mexico, NY junior. Smith ends the season with 35 wins – among the best overall win total in the nation at Division I – but finished 1-2 at the national tournament
Another Virginia Dual foe was lined up for Desi Green, who faced off against Derek Valenti of Virginia. Unlike Smith, Green had won the first meeting, but this time it was much more dramatic. Green used a takedown and escape to build a 3-0 lead going to the third period, also erasing the riding time advantage against him in the process. Valenti got a leg deep into the third period and got the takedown to tie it 3-3, and as the final eight seconds ticked off, his previous riding time of 52 seconds hit a minute on the nose as the final horn sounded, giving Valenti a winning riding time point and giving Green a disappointing finish to the season. The Henrietta, NY native finished 1-2 at the tournament while Valenti went on to earn All-American status.
Keeping with the theme of the day early on, Mark Lewandowski faced Garrett Mock of North Carolina, an opponent he lost 4-1 to at the Penn State Open in December. Lewandowski earned from his previous bout with the Tar Heel freshman and took him down early to lead 2-0 after the first period. After an escape from Mock moved it to 2-1, Lewandowski had his single led caught but climbed over his opponent to get a decisive takedown and a 5-2 decision, moving on to the next round.
The final of the four Bulls to wrestle in the morning session, John-Martin Cannon took on Eren Civan of Columbia. There was little offense on either side, with the two trading escapes through the first three periods. After the sudden victory overtime passed with no more scores, it went to the tie breaker. After Civan escaped, Cannon was unable to shake out and was ridden to the end for a 2-1 loss, ending a terrific month-long run for the true junior out of Brockport, NY who will finish 1-2 after recording his first career win in the national tournament yesterday.
In the next round for Lewandowski (in the consolation bracket) it was fifth seed Jesse Dong of Virginia Tech. Lewandowski avenged his previous upset bid that was spoiled the day before, dominating Dong throughout for a 7-0 decision. After a scoreless first period, Lewandowski started down and got out quickly, adding a takedown late in the period to build a 3-0 lead going in to the final period. After letting a lead to Arizona State's Bubba Jenkins slip away on Thursday, Lewandowski kept his composure, adding three back points and riding time to cap his enormous victory.
Mark would take to the mat one more time on Friday night, but this time the stakes were considerably higher – a chance to become an All-American. Standing in his way was Derek St. John of prominent powerhouse Iowa. With the Hawkeyes coming in to the session in third place in the team standings, every win was needed for Iowa, leading to a dogfight between the two competitors with so much on the line.
After a scoreless first period, Lewandowski started on bottom. St. John returned him multiple times and rode him out for the entire period for two minutes of riding time. In the third period, it was a neutral start and after a scuffle, St. John got in on a leg and took down Lewandowski. Despite an escape from the Depew, NY sophomore, the riding time was too much to overtake and he fell 3-1.
With the loss by Lewandowski, Buffalo's contention in the 2011 NCAA wrestling championship was ended. The championship round will begin at 7:30 pm tomorrow evening, coverage will be provided by the ESPN family of networks, with Penn State currently leading in the team standings.