Cannon Blasts Competition at UB Open
John-Martin Cannon was nothing short of impressive at the UB Open. Alexa Strudler /// The Spectrum
It had been an eventful offseason for the wrestling team. The team's nine-month break included the signing of a nationally renowned recruiting class, the renovation of its facility, and the loss of arguably its best wrestler.
Fans gathered to see if Buffalo had truly refocused itself to start off its 2011-12 campaign on Sunday and saw mixed results.
The Bulls hosted the UB Open, a meet that had 170 wrestlers from 11 different schools. Buffalo had its strong moments, but only crowned one champion in the meet.
Senior John-Martin Cannon, the 174-pound wrestler, quietly entered the meet under the surrounding hype of the offseason developments. However, he made sure his presence was known by the time the seven-hour meet was over. Cannon was just one of the 10 crowned champions, but he was one of the most dominant.
Cannon dominated each of the opponents he faced en route to the finals. He manhandled his rivals, and wasn't taken down even once during the meet.
Cannon and his coaches decided to sit out this season with the hopes of being named an All-American next year. The soon-to-be-redshirted wrestler's outstanding performance didn't surprise head assistant coach Matt Lackey one bit.
"John-Martin is a stud," Lackey said. "I was happy to see him do it. That's what we expected John-Martin to do – dominate."
Cannon did just that and his opponent in the semifinals was on the unfortunate end of the senior's attack. SUNY Cortland's Louis Puca gave Cannon a hard slap to the head in a fit of frustration after being overpowered for the majority of the match.
This smack only set Cannon off, and he repeatedly slammed Puca to the ground to clinch the 14-4 victory.
"I used [his foul play] to my advantage," Cannon said. "It only made me aggressive."
Cannon's final match against Pittsburgh's Patrick Tasser would not go as easy, as his fast pace throughout the meet finally caught up with him. The future All-American's fatigue was noticeable in the championship match, and the raw power he showcased during the meet was less apparent.
The two were tied 1-1 going into overtime when Cannon finally scored a takedown on Tasser to take the 174-pound championship. But the standout senior was slightly frustrated that the match played out in such a tight fashion.
"I wasn't really feeling great, but I got to be able to push through it," Cannon said. "I shouldn't be having close matches like that with kids that are unranked."
The Bulls sent two other wrestlers to championship matches – freshman Dominic Montesanti and senior Kevin Smith. But both fell short despite their best efforts.
Smith's 141-lbs title match against Edinboro's Mitchell Port had one of the afternoon's more exciting moments. Neither opponent gained a clear advantage – the match was constantly stalemated. At one point, the two nearly collided with the scorer's table as they pushed each other out of bounds. Smith's effort wasn't enough in the end, and he lost, 4-2.
Montesanti was strong coming off of his redshirt season. He beat all three of his opponents by margins of four. But his performance sputtered in the 165-lbs. championship match, and lost to Lehigh's Sean Bilodeau by pin fall.
Cannon is hopeful that his teammates will move forward from their disappointments.
"I think we got to go back to the drawing board," Cannon said. "We got to figure out where the mistakes are being made and just keep at it…The kids need to refocus and have a short memory."
Junior Mark Lewandowski finished last season with a top-12 finish at the NCAA tournament, but struggled against the invite's lesser foes. He beat his first opponent 11-1, but only had less than 30 minutes to recover for his next match. As a result, he lost 5-1 against the unrostered Owen Scott.
Lewandowski redeemed himself with a convincing 15-0 third place finish over Edinboro's Jason Greisheimer. However, Lackey believes that there was no reason Lewandowski should've lost his second match – fatigue or not.
"Mark wasn't ready to wrestle the match, and that's on Mark," Lackey said. "I think it was mostly mental. Whether he wanted to go out there or not, he needs to be prepared to do so, and I think Mark knows it."
Buffalo also debuted its highly touted recruits at the invite. Freshman Jake Waste had the most impressive performance of the bunch and finished the meet in fifth place.
Lackey said that freshman Justin Lozano, who finished in seventh, also had a standout performance. On the other hand, he added that the new recruits, along with the rest of the team, had a lot to learn as the season progresses.
"We have an extremely young team this year," Lackey said. "We need to make sure that we go out every week not worrying about wins and losses as much as taking something away, and making sure we get better each week."
The Bulls will travel to Harrisburg, PA to compete in the Wrestle For A Cure Duals. The meet will take place next Saturday.
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