Wrestling team looking ahead after first MAC win in three seasons
A win is a win, but for the Buffalo wrestling team, some wins mean more than others.
On Jan. 22, the Bulls (8-7, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) defeated the No. 21 team in the country, Old Dominion (4-8, 0-3 MAC), 19-17. While it was the team’s eighth victory of the 2015-16 season, it was a win that provided Buffalo with its first conference victory in more than three years and its first win over a ranked opponent since a victory over No. 12 Nebraska in 2010.
While head coach John Stutzman treated the win as just another day at the office, it also serves as an indictor that Buffalo’s development and progression may finally be translating into wins on the mat.
“I forgot about it 30 seconds after it was over to be honest with you,” Stutzman said of the win, grinning. “I think we can win, I think they believe they can win, I believe we should win. We’re working hard and getting better and that win was because of hard work and dedication to the craft.”
Heading into the 2015-16 season, Stutzman emphasized the team’s youth and how this was a season for development.
But entering the stretch run of MAC play, Stutzman doesn’t want to use youth as an “excuse.”
“We’re getting better,” Stutzman said. “You can’t use the excuse that you’re growing all the time.”
Sophomore 157-pounder Tim Schaefer started the match with an overtime victory, 6-4. Schaefer said that heading into the match, he was working his leg attacks and felt that he would be able to get the victory leading up to the event.
Normally, the Bulls would have another wrestler in the leadoff spot, but against the Monarchs, Schaefer led off and his victory was paramount in setting the tone for the rest of the event.
“I knew I had to have the victory because our original leadoff guy comes out and puts us on a roll, so I figured I would do the same,” Schaefer said. “I got him down and got the victory.”
Stutzman reiterated how important Schaefer’s opening match victory was, calling it “the shot in the arm” and “the extra boost” needed for the Bulls heading into the rest of the dual meet.
Some of Buffalo’s younger wrestlers, like freshman Jake Gunning, also starred in the match. Gunning won by major decision, 14-3, over the Monarch’s Andrew Snyder.
The Bulls faced No. 23 Ohio (8-3, 3-3 MAC) the week after, a match the Bulls dropped 31-7. It was a reminder that the win over the Monarchs was important, but there was still progress to be made.
“I was disappointed after that match,” Stutzman said. “I thought we didn’t do well on paper, but when I looked back, there was some points we left on the table and thought we could’ve came away with that one as well. We have to keep things in perspective ... can’t just let that win be it and relax.”
But still, for Schaefer, a native of Warsaw, New York, the Old Dominion win was a step forward for the program – a program he watched growing up and wants to bring to new heights this season.
“I grew up around here and always watched the team,” Schaefer said. “They always sent guys to the MAC and NCAA Tournament. This was back when I was little and they were fun to watch. It’s getting back to that point. This team is fun to watch, fun to wrestle with. We’re getting back to that point and we’re all growing as a team. Ultimately, I want us to win the MAC and get to the NCAA Tournament.”
The Bulls are off for the week and won’t wrestle again until they face No. 17 Central Michigan (6-3, 3-1 MAC) on Sunday, Feb. 7. The match is set for 2 p.m.
Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @HaynesTheWriter.