A young and talented UB wrestling team took its lumps last season after leaning heavily on a starting lineup that consisted of seven wrestlers who were either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen and only one senior. Now coming back to the team will be six starters from last year with a season of experience under their belt and a feeling that there's something still to prove. Joining them will be two returning national qualifiers - senior John-Martin Cannon and junior Andrew Schutt - who spent the season as redshirts and will look to help the team climb back into the national focus.
Schutt has already been ranked in the top 25 at 141 pounds by most wrestling publications, and Cannon sits in the top 10 and was named the second-best redshirt at 174 pounds in the nation by TheOpenMat.com after going 21-4 in redshirt tournaments. His season was highlighted by a fourth-place finish at The Midlands, one of the highest finishes at the prestigious tournament by a UB wrestler in program history. Also earning preseason rankings for the Bulls are Mark Lewandowski and Angelo Malvestuto.
Lewandowski joins Cannon as potential members of the 100-win club. After the team went four years without a 100-win member (from 2007-11), the Bulls have now had at least one wrestler reach the milestone over the past two years. Lewandowski has 80 wins coming into his senior year, and Cannon has 72 wins. The Bulls are ready to come out charging after winning only seven duals last season, and with coach Jim Beichner saying that every single weight class has improved from last season, another successful postseason is in the cards for UB wrestling.
Max and Mike Soria (Kings Park, NY / Kings Park) will be competing for the starting spot at 125, with Max likely to start after qualifying for the NCAA tournament last season and winning 21 matches (nine in dual meets). They will be backed up by Ryan Howes (Wolcott, NY / North Rose-Wolcott), who walked on to the team after finishing his career at North Rose-Wolcott High School with a 41-2 record as a senior.
"Both Max and Mike have really developed after their first two years here. They were small coming out of high school and they now look like they are legitimate 125-pounders," head coach Jim Beichner said. "They are both super athletes. These two can do things that few others can and they are capable of wrestling techniques that not many people are used to. They're hard working and the only thing they know is to work hard, which is why they're seeing these great results."
The 133-pound division may just consist of three wrestlers, but it represents one of the deepest on the team. Three experienced wrestlers who all have started at one time or another will compete for just one starting spot. Justin Farmer (New Lenox, IL/Lincoln-Way Catholic) returns as the starter from 2011-12, but Pittsburgh transfer Erik Galloway (State College, PA / Pittsburgh) and junior Sean Walton (Palmyra, NY / Palmyra-Macedon) will not make it easy for him to start again. Farmer won 16 matches last season, while Walton won 12 jumping between 125 and 133 pounds. Galloway was 13-6 as a redshirt freshman at Pitt last season, with three wins coming by fall and three more by tech fall.
"We've got three guys who are going to be competing and all three are capable of starting on day one," Beichner said. "It's a good problem to have with these three guys, because they will all get better by training with one another. We want a guy who can consistently win with the spotlight on him. Somebody is going to be good in that weight class because of the depth that we have."
The Bulls said goodbye to a legend last season when Kevin Smith graduated, but waiting in the wings last season was junior Andrew Schutt (Greenwood Township, MI/Yale), who redshirted after making the national tournament in 2010-11. He will be backed up by John Northrup (Rochester, NY / Rush-Henrietta), who won 151 career matches and was aNew York State Section V Class AA champion as a senior.
"Andrew is a fearless wrestler who has proven that he can go out and beat top 25 wrestlers on a consistent basis. He's going to be our starter and we know what he's capable of," Beichner said. "He used his redshirt year to get focused and get better. John Northrup is still young, but we think that he can contribute somewhere down the road for us. He will absolutely benefit from facing Schutt in the wrestling room as a sparring partner."
Blake Roulo (Petersburg, VA / Matoaca), had the unenviable task of having to start as a true freshman, but put together a solid season that left him just short of a berth in the NCAA tournament. Now motivated by the snub, Roulo has prepared to do big things to follow up his 22-win season.
"Blake had one of the best summers on the team, and you can see that he was motivated by just missing out on reaching the podium at the MAC championships and the national tournament," Beichner said. "Making the jump from high school is not easy to do but he (Roulo) handled it well last year and this season we expect him to do great things."
Jimmy Kloc (Marilla, NY / Iroquois)c was one of the best high school wrestlers in New York state coming out of Iroquois High School, and even though the coaching staff might redshirt him this season, he's sure to make Blake better while he acclimates to the Division I level. He set the school record for career wins, going 256-28 in his time at Iroquois and was a two-time New York state champion, after he finished second as a sophomore.
You could see Clay Reeb (Cheektowaga, NY / Oklahoma) down at 149 as well, if the coaching staff needs to find depth. The junior wrestled at 149, 157, and 165 last season and saw time in four dual meets, winning three of them. He will likely bounce between just 149 and 157 in 2012-13.
This will likely be the most fiercely competitive weight class on the team this year, with four wrestlers who can make legitimate claims to start every week. Incumbent starter Wally Maziarz (North Tonawanda, NY / North Tonawanda) will need to be bested first though, after having a solid season as a redshirt freshman starter in 2011-12. After sitting for most of last season due to injuries, Matt Dehney (Dracut, MA / Dracut) returns at 100 percent with a chance to see time at either 157 or 165.
"This year, he (Dehney) has come out of the gate and has trained hard and he seems to be somebody with the desire to make a difference for us and I wouldn't put it past him to be in that spot as well," Beichner said.
Added to the mix is standout recruit Chris Nevinger (Perry, NY / Letchworth). Chris won the 160-pound Division II NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championship as a senior, his third total as a high school wrestler after winning titles at 145 and 152 pounds. On the national scene, he won two NHSCA titles as a freshman and sophomore, and placed third as a junior. He rolls into Buffalo on a hot streak, going 51-0 as a senior to run his unbeaten streak to 143.
"Chis is a great kid and great student, he fits in well with what we're looking for and the guys really like him," said head assistant coach Matt Lackey. "He's a very quiet, humble kid who is mature physically and has proven to be a top-caliber talent in the nation. We expect him to come in and be a difference maker for us."
Clay Reeb will also spend time in the class, though he will likely stay where the coaches need him most. Rounding out the group is freshman Tyler Newton (Shinglehouse, PA / Bolivar-Richburg). A stand out performer academically and athletically, Newton won 199 career matches in high school while earning the honor of being his class' valedictorian.
Mark Lewandowski (Depew, NY / Lancaster) returns for his senior season with the same goal he has had for the previous two seasons: find a way to get on the podium at nationals. After two straight seasons with 33 wins, Mark enters the team with 80 career wins and a shot to crack the top five all time in career wins. He was the 2011-12 national leader in tech falls, with 11, and set a new program record with 21 two-point near falls. His high-scoring style was huge for the young Bulls last season, and now in 2012-13, he could very well sway the tide of many more matches with a deeper team alongside of him.
He is one of the most consistent guys over the past few years, and he's obviously a guy that we count on to win and win often. He needs to be one of those leaders where he gets on the mat, gets us big bonus points, gets his hand raised and walks off having given us the boost in the middle of the lineup that we need. He had his best summer of training and he's becoming more vocal as a leader. He wants to get back to the NCAA tournament and he definitely wants to place.
Justin Lozano (Selma, CA / Selma) battled back from injury and also was asked to perform as a starter, where he won 15 matches and wrestled in six duals for UB. He moves down to 165 pounds and will likely redshirt, eventually with the goal of replacing the senior Lewandowski in the starting lineup.
"I hope he (Lozano) gets more sound as a wrestler and technically better," Beichner said. "He needs to be in the best condition of anyone in the country because he's strong enough and talented enough to do some great things."
Dom Montesanti (Medina, NY / RIT) is certified at 157 but was the ultimate utility man in his first year at UB. The RIT transfer wrestled everywhere from 157 to 184, but now with added depth to the team he will likely hang within the 157 to 174 range.
"He's good enough to put him anywhere, he's kind of our darkhorse," Beichner said about Montesanti. "He's a guy who you could see as an injury replacement or as someone who can steal a starting spot from someone who isn't ready."
Rounding out the class is Jeff Palmeri (Rochester, NY / Rush-Henrietta), who wrestled at seven different tournaments as a true freshman.
John-Martin Cannon (Brockport, NY / Brockport) makes his triumphant return to the team after a terrific redshirt year in 2011-12. Aiming to be the next member of the 100-win club, Cannon also has a chance to sign his name all over the program's record books.
"We have high hopes for him, we want him to not only become an all american but also fight for a top-four spot in the country," Beichner said. "I think he has those hopes for himself as well. He had probably the best redshirt year of any wrestler I've seen in my time here at Buffalo."
With its senior leader back, the UB coaching staff will likely use this season to redshirt Jake Waste (Ramsey, MN / Apple Valley). Waste came ever-so-close to a bid to the national tournament as a true freshman after he won 24 matches. Ryan Therrien (Boxford, MA / Masconomet Regional) will bounce between 174 and 165 and may also redshirt this season. He left Massachusetts as a state champion while also setting his school record for takedowns. Dom Montesanti has the potential to also wrestle in this division.
Tony Lock (Chaffee, NY / Pioneer) will be asked to step in as the team's starter at 184, and similarly to Waste and Roulo last season, Lock has the national pedigree to hold his own. Tony won the 182-pound title at the 2012 National High School Coaches Association Senior Tournament, beating Nolan Boyd of Oklahoma 5-4 in overtime following up his title at the Division II NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championship. He finished his senior season with a flawless 51-0 record and capped a two-year run that earned him a record of 99-2, with one of those losses coming in the state final as a junior.
"We expect him to win even as a freshman. He believes he can and we believe he can," Beichner said about Lock.
Jarred Lux (Pittsburgh, PA / North Allegheny) is another talented true freshman who may redshirt this season but has the talent to step in if needed. The nephew of volunteer coach Jeff Catrabone, Lux finished third in the wrestling-rich state of Pennsylvania's tournament as a senior after winning 34 matches. He also was a placewinner at the hotly contested Super 32 tournament. He will bounce between 174 and 184 this season as he gets a feel for Division I wrestling.
The Bulls fill a critical position thanks to the transfer of Angelo Malvestuto (Niagara Falls, NY) from Virginia Tech. After finding success in a tough Hokie weight room, Malvestuto moved closer to home and has the UB coaching staff thrilled about his potential. After redshirting in his first season, he went 21-13 in his sophomore year and picked up five major decisions, two technical falls and six pins.
"Angelo will make us better at 197 pounds this year," Beichner said. "Because he's back in his hometown and he's closer to family, we think he's going to explode and have a really great year for us."
Backing him up will be Zach Ward (Williamsville, NY / Clarence). After being forced to not only start last season, but start at unfamiliar weight classes, Ward will likely remain at either 197 or 184 for the year.
As another true freshman thrust into a starting role last season, Justin Heiserman (Monroe, MI / Dundee) had his ups and downs, but the decision was made in the summer to move him up to heavyweight and allow him to grow into the role. He won 12 matches last season and started in all but two dual meets, and the coaching staff hopes a more assertive Heiserman could spell success at an important weight class.
He will not have to do it all by himself though, as Jedd Mason (Whitehall, NY / Whitehall) returns after earning the starting job last season. Also coming in will be Joey Manna (Islip, NY / Buffalo State), who played football at Buffalo State. The redshirt freshman may have to wait a while to practice however, as he is still nursing an injury from the summer.