After taking over a dormant program that had produced just six dual meet victories in the previous four seasons, head coach Jim Beichner has taken the Bulls’ wrestling program to a complete turnaround. In 18 seasons, Beichner has guided Buffalo to a 151-120-4 (.556) dual meet record and has coached 43 Bulls at the NCAA Championships.
Under Beichner’s tutelage, seven Buffalo wrestlers have reached the 100-win plateau. In 2010, Jimmy Hamel and Desi Green joined Mark Budd, Kyle Cerminara, Gary Cooper and Josh States as the only Bulls to reach that prestigious mark, all have done so since Beichner took the reins at UB. Early on in 2011, Kevin Smith also joined the club.
Beichner arrived at UB for the 1995-96 season, and guided the Bulls to a 10-4 dual meet record after they were winless the previous season. The Bulls captured third place in the East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA) Tournament and sent two wrestlers to the NCAA Championships where they each posted wins, the first-ever tournament wins for UB since its return to Division I. Additionally, Beichner was recognized for his efforts, receiving the New York State Division I and ECWA Coach of the Year awards, in addition to Amateur Wrestling News Rookie Coach of the Year honors.
In his second season, Beichner guided the team to a 12-2-2 record, the most wins in over a decade for the program. Again the Bulls finished third at the ECWA Tournament. Jason Wartinger qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third time in his career. In addition, the Bulls finished in the top five in all five tournaments they participated in under Beichner’s leadership.
In his third season, UB finished in third place at the ECWA Tournament. In addition, the Bulls made another step towards national prominence by sending three qualifiers to the NCAA National Championships, the third consecutive year Beichner had guided wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.
In addition to the team’s success, Beichner helped the UB program and the Western New York area by bringing the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic to UB’s Alumni Arena. This national tournament showcased some of the top wrestlers in the country at each weight class going against each other as a preview of possible National Championship matchups. All told, there were six National Champions and 19 All-Americans from that season who competed at UB’s Alumni Arena.
In 1998-99, Beichner continued the program’s upward climb as the Bulls entered the Mid-American Conference, a conference that had two teams finish in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships the previous year. UB finished third in the regular season and fourth at the MAC Championships. Additionally, the Bulls had three qualifiers for the NCAA Championships for the second straight season.
During the 1999-2000 season, Buffalo finished with an 11-5 dual meet record. Within the MAC, the Bulls posted a 2-3 mark leaving them in fourth place. UB also placed fourth at the MAC Championships. Once again, three of Buffalo’s wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships.
In the 2000-01 campaign under Beichner, four UB wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships. Buffalo’s lone NCAA qualifier in 2001-02 was freshman standout Kyle Cerminara.
In 2002-03, along with Labe Black and Gary Cooper reaching the NCAA Championships, Beichner’s team went 9-6 and won the New York State Collegiate Championships.
In 2003-04, Beichner led the Bulls to an 8-0 dual meet start on the way to a 12-5 season. Along the way, Buffalo took second at the New York State Collegiate Championships and Ed Pawlak, Mark McKnight and Cerminara won MAC Championships to earn bids to the NCAA Championships.
Though McKnight and Pawlak bowed out in the All-American round at the meet, Cerminara won in overtime en route to an eighth-place finish. UB finished 33rd at the meet, its highest placing in the Division I era.
His team went through a youth movement in 2004-05, with four freshmen being placed in the starting lineup and two sophomores and a junior without consistent starting experience also making the starting 10. The result was a season that saw the Bulls struggle to 3-10 in dual meets, but a season that ended with two wins, including a come-from-behind 18-16 win against Kent State.
Even with the youth, Beichner delivered an NCAA qualifier for the 10th consecutive year, as McKnight reached the tournament and a record five Bulls placed at the Mid-American Conference Championships.
In 2005-06, Beichner’s patience paid off, as the team placed a school-record third at the MAC Championships, led by the individual title efforts of captains Mark Budd and Harold Sherrell. Cerminara also earned a bid to the NCAA Championships, as the 197-pounder posted a UB-best ranking of second in the final NWCA poll and earned the second seed at the NCAA Championships. Budd also earned a national ranking during the season, egged on by his stunning upset of the nation’s No. 1-ranked 133-pounder in December.
The rest of the Bulls also got on the winning track, as Mickey Moran went from seven wins as a freshman to 26 and a national ranking as a sophomore, helping the team garner its first national ranking, reaching 24th in the WrestlingReport.com poll.
Despite dealing with numerous injuries, Beichner still guided the 2006-07 Bulls to a winning dual meet record. The Bulls also had success during tournaments throughout the season, as 10 UB wrestlers won tournament titles during the season. The Bulls finished 3rd at the New York State Wrestling Championships and Budd made his second-straight trip to the NCAA Championship.
Prior to the 2007-08 season, the pre-season rankings predicted the Bulls to finish in last place among their six conference foes. Buffalo managed to finish fourth in the MAC with Pat Lloyd finished second at 157 as Jimmy Hamel and Jeff Parker placed third at 197 and HWT, respectively. At the Intercollegiate Championships, the Bulls broke their streak of back-to-back third place finishes by taking second place for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
In the 2008-09 season, the Bulls faced six nationally-ranked opponents. In a four week period, Buffalo faced #9 Central Michigan, #13 Edinboro, #22 Hofstra and #23 Kent State in dual meets while grappling #21 Minnesota and #11 Wyoming at the National Duals earlier in the season. The Bulls walked away from the NYS Intercollegiate Championships by capturing the team title as well as individual titles by Nate Rock at 174, Kevin Smith at 133 and reigning champion Mickey Moran defending his title at 184. Beichner led four Bulls to their first career appearances at the NCAA Championships - redshirt-freshman Desi Green, redshirt-sophomore Jimmy Hamel and fifth-year seniors Nate Rock and Mickey Moran. The Bulls’ new all-time takedown leader Green reached the furthest among the four competitors by reaching top 16 in the 149-pound weight class.
The 2009-10 team posted yet another winning campaign, going 9-7-1 and sending another four players to the NCAA championships. A win against perennial national power Nebraska, ranked #12 at the time, and tie against #25 Hofstra highlighted the team’s dual meet season. Sophomore Desi Green won the MAC Championship at 149 pounds and three other Bulls placed second in their championship weight classes. Additionally, sophomore John-Martin Cannon won his 165 pound class at the New York State Intercollegiate Championships.
Even more records were set in 2010-11, as the team sent a record five wrestlers to the NCAA tournament after winning a record four individual titles en route to a third-place finish at the MAC championships. Junior Desi Green won his second MAC championship and became the third Buffalo wrestler under Beichner to make the NCAA tournament three straight years. Aside from that, Green became the first junior ever to win 100 career matches, joining senior Jimmy Hamel as members of the team that joined the 100-win club in 2010-11.
In his 16 seasons, Beichner has made a tremendous impact at the University at Buffalo. He has taken the program from a team with a combined six wins in the four years prior to his arrival to 50 wins in his first five seasons. With 144 dual meet wins, Beichner ranks behind only Ed Michael’s 213 career wins at Buffalo.
Beichner and his staff have brought some of the best that college wrestling has to offer in Western New York and continue to build a program that is making trips to the NCAA Championships on a regular basis.
Prior to his appointment at UB, Beichner served seven years as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh under head coach Rande Stottlemeyer. At Pittsburgh, Beichner was heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the program, budgeting, and other administrative duties in addition to his coaching and recruiting responsibilities.
“I was fortunate that Rande gave me the freedom to do what was necessary to get the job done,” Beichner said. “He never put restrictions on my methods, but instead made everything accessible to me at all times.”
During his seven-year tenure as an assistant, the Panthers were ranked in the National Top-25 six times, reaching as high as 13th in 1988. During Beichner’s last season as an assistant in 1994-95, Pittsburgh was invited to the National Duals Tournament for the first time in school history. En route to an eighth-place finish, the Panthers defeated traditional wrestling powers Oregon State and Arizona State, as well as intrastate rival Penn State for the first time in 19 years.
Beichner’s coaching career began at Clarion University following an outstanding collegiate wrestling career for the Golden Eagles. During his four years, Beichner was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American at 190 pounds, compiling 125 overall career victories (tying third for most all-time wins) and twice being selected to compete in the prestigious East-West All-Star Classic. In addition, he is 11th in career dual meet wins (49) and posted the third-best single-season record in school history at 40-4 during the 1984-85 season. As captain he led Clarion to only its third undefeated dual meet season in more than 38 years of competition. In May of 2000, Beichner was inducted into the Clarion Sports Hall of Fame.
It was while coaching at Clarion following his wrestling career that Beichner learned the inner workings of a collegiate wrestling program from one of the winningest coaches in history, Bob Bubb. Currently the Executive Director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, Bubb had a profound influence on Beichner and his coaching style.
“Coach Bubb was a very regimented coach who ran a strict program,” Beichner said. “However, he was more than just a wrestling coach in that he was always there if you were having problems or needed any kind of help. If I can do anything here at UB, I’d like to emulate the way he ran his program and be as successful as he’s been.”
Beichner began his association with wrestling at Cassadaga Valley High School, located 80 miles southwest of Buffalo. Wrestling under head coach Cliff Blum, Beichner was a three-time New York State High School Tournament placewinner and an inductee into the Cassadaga Hall of Fame in 1982.
“I consider coach Blum to be one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with. The majority of my wrestling technique and all the things I’ve accomplished come as a result of his wrestling program.”
In 2004, he was also inducted into the Chautauqua County Hall of Fame for his efforts at Cassadaga Valley, Clarion and UB.
In recognition of the respect he has earned in collegiate wrestling from his peers, Beichner was chosen as President of the National Wrestling Coaches Association and began a two-year term in 2008.
After a record-breaking season in 2010-11, Beichner earned the Mid American Conference’s Coach of the Year for the first time in his 16 seasons. Under his guidance, the team finished third at the conference tournament (tied for a program best) and he sent six wrestlers to the NCAA tournament, tied for the most of any program in the MAC.
Also in 2010-11, two more wrestlers joined the 100-win club: senior Jimmy Hamel and junior Desi Green. After Green won his 100th match en route to his second straight MAC title at 149 pounds, he became the first junior in program history to win 100 career matches.
In 2012, the team had one of the youngest starting lineups in program history but still put together a solid season, with a handful of veterans supporting a raw but talented core of new faces. Kevin Smith not only reached the 100-win mark for his career, he finished the season with 121 total wins (2nd most all time) and won a dual match on the final day of the regular season to pass Kyle Cerminara for the most career dual wins (with 52). Mark Lewandowski won over 30 matches for the second straight year and set the single season record for most two-point near falls. The two vets also joined standout freshman Jake Waste with 16 dual meet wins this season, tying them for seventh most in program history. Despite all the growing pains, the team sent two wrestlers to St. Louis for the NCAA championship.
Beichner has three children - Jake, Sam, and Grace.