Bulls Look to Lock Horns in MAC Championships
The wrestling team looks to sneak up on the Mid-American Conference, after a regular season filled with injuries and disappointments.
As a team, the Bulls (7-14, 1-4 MAC) finished the season strong with a pair of wins over SIU-Edwardsville (5-15) and Northern Illinois (8-9, 0-5 MAC). The expectations of the wrestling team are high as it heads to Athens, Ohio for the MAC championships.
Training and mental preparation will be key for each wrestler as they try to exceed the expectations of a young, inexperienced team.
Senior Kevin Smith who is nationally ranked at No. 22 looks to cap off a remarkable season. His overall record of 28-7 makes Smith a target for others in his bracket to take down.
Many wrestlers stand in the way of Smith, but one provides a huge problem, Kent State's Tyler Small. Smith was defeated in each of their last three meetings. Exercising his past demons against Small would be necessary if Smith plans on reaching his goal as a national champion.
"I don't expect [Kevin] to carry the team through the tournament," Beichner said. "He's just one of the 10 guys that trained with our team everyday that we want to wrestle hard."
True freshman Jake Waste finished with an overall record of 22-8. Ranked No. 31 in the nation, Waste's consistent production on the team has provided a reliable spot in the starting lineup.
"[Waste] has improved over the year, and is getting better," Beichner said. "We want more, I always ask my guys are you satisfied? They answer no."
Waste like Smith will have to mentally and physically find a way to battle his way through the competition.
Throughout the season, not many expected redshirt freshman Max Soria to be a success. Soria's 20-15 record has been a bright spot for the Bulls.
"His success hasn't been a surprise, when he wasn't doing well that was a surprise to us," Beichner said.
Soria was off to a fast start this season, quickly beating his first five opponents but he struggled midway through the season. Soria was able to finish strong, but looks to redeem himself in the MAC championship.
"When he did struggle we had a tremendous amount of confidence and belief in him," Beichner said.
Junior Mark Lewandowski is looking to help bolster the Bulls' chances of making a name in the tournament. Lewandowski has struggled with a knee injury most of the year but is now at full health and has found his groove as of late. The dominant force wrestled his way to a 31-6 record.
The key to Lewandowski's success will be how well he prepares himself for his matches and if he can stay healthy.
"Right now we look good, our training habits are good, they look good, they feel good, they are well rested," Beichner said. "The most important thing is to make sure that [the team] goes to the MAC championship healthy."
The tournament runs all day Saturday, and wrestlers are looking for automatic berths to the NCAA tournament.
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