ATHENS, OH - The Buffalo wrestling team traveled to the campus of Ohio University Sunday for the Mid-American Conference championships. Though the team was unable to capture any individual champions, freshman Max Soria earned an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Soria lost both of his first two matches at 125 pounds, losing 9-3 to eventual champion Joe Roth (CMU) and 11-5 to Eastern Michigan's Jared Germaine. With the conference boasting such a deep weight class at 125, the NCAA rewarded it with four automatic bids. With that fact, Soria was given a chance to wrestle for true fourth with a glimmer of hope to keep his season alive. Facing Northern Illinois' Nick Smith, who came into the day ranked 20th in the nation in the coaches poll, Soria wrestled one of his best matches of the season and earned a 19-8 major decision to secure the true fourth place and an opportunity to wrestle in St. Louis.
After receiving a bye to the quarterfinals, Mark Lewandowski defeated Kent State's Ross Tice 3-1 in the 165-pound semifinals to earn a shot at Central Michigan's Mike Ottinger. After losing to Ottinger in December, Lewandowski finished the season on a 13-0 streak. The bitterly contest matchup went deep into overtime before Lewandowski lost on rideout, 4-3. Despite the loss, the Depew, NY native will likely receive an at-large bid at 165 pounds.
Two true freshmen Bulls came in the top three at the tournament. Blake Roulo won his opening round match 6-4 over Shawn Fayette (Northern Illinois) and earned a 2-1 decision over Andrew Romanchik to earn a shot at the 149-pound title and the conference's lone auto-bid. He fell to Kent State's Ian Miller 12-3 in the finals, but earned true second with a double-overtime 3-1 win over Central Michigan's Joey Kielbasa. Jake Waste needed to reach the finals to earn a chance at the NCAA tournament but lost 3-1 to Eastern Michigan's Phillip Joseph in the semis. He rallied to finish third thanks to a 8-2 win over Northern Illinois' Caleb Busson.
Senior Kevin Smith's quest for his first conference championship came to a frustrating end, as he lost in the semifinals to Northern Illinois' Kevin Fanta 4-3. Needing to finish at least third to earn an auto bid, Smith lost in the consolation round to Central Michigan's Scott Mattingly 9-2.
Joining Lewandowski in the wait for at-large bids will be Waste, Roulo and Smith, who all still have an opportunity to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, to be held Mar. 15-17. The 40 at-large qualifiers, which will be announced on March 7, with the at-large selections being made based on head-to-head competition, qualifying event placement, quality wins, results against common opponents, winning percentage, RPI, and coaches ranking and the number of matches contested at that weight class.