Taken Down: Bulls Finish Last in MAC Tournament
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Senior Kevin Smith has been one of the standouts for the wrestling team this season. He was one of Buffalo's only hopes for Mid-American Conference glory in this year's tournament.
But he fell short.
On a day where Smith (28-7) and the Bulls (7-14, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) looked to add a MAC championship to their resumes, they fell well short of that goal as they finished last out of six teams in the MAC Championships in Athens, Ohio on Sunday.
The Bulls finished with just 21.5 points, and watched Central Michigan (14-5, 5-0 MAC) win its 11th straight MAC conference championship.
"I didn't think our teams' performance overall was very great," said head coach Jim Beichner. "Individually we had some strong performances."
Like the Bulls, Smith was unable to claim a conference championship, and he fell to Kevin Fanta (12-4) of Northern Illinois by a final score of 4-3.
With a ranking of No. 22 in the nation, Smith has been significant to the Bulls success this season. Wrestling hard was a theme that head coach Jim Beichner had stressed earlier in the week. Smith battled until the end in what would be his last appearance at the MAC wrestling championships.
"He probably feels pretty lousy," Beichner said. "We feel for him. He's been a great ambassador and a great student we wish he would have wrestled better."
Amidst the upset of his teammate, junior Mark Lewandowski (31-6) was able to reach the finals in his 165-pound weight class. Lewandowski had recovered from a knee injury mid-season to be able to compete. However he lost in the finals to Matt Ottinger (22-8) of Central Michigan 4-3.
Lewandowski was able to receive a first round bye, setting him up for a semi-final match against Ross Tice (11-12) of Kent State. It was a low scoring affair and points were at a premium. Lewandowski outshined Tice, beating him 3-1 setting him up for the match with Ottinger.
"Mark went to that tournament to win it, he lost a hard fought match and deserves a NCAA wild card," Beichner said. "He's earned it."
Most of the positives from the Bulls came from their younger members. Although redshirt freshman Max Soria had lost to Jared Germaine of Eastern Michigan (23-9), he was given the opportunity for a wild-card slot to the national championship in the 125-pound weight class after winning his 5th and 6th place matches. Those wins earned him a chance to vie for 4th place against Nick Smith (13-4) of Northern Illinois University.
"He took advantage of the match, and now he's wrestling in his first ever national championship," Beichner said. "We are very happy for Max, and we are going to be training real hard."
While Soria fought his way into the national championships, fellow true freshman Blake Roulo (19-12) also had a strong performance in his first ever MAC championship. A highly recruited wrestler, Roulo defeated Joey Kielbasa (20-18) of Central Michigan in a double overtime thriller that resulted in a 3-1 decision. Roulo was eventually done in by freshman Ian Miller of Kent State (25-3) 12-3, ending his hopes of a title.
"Blake did a nice job," Beichner said. "He had a tough match in the finals, [He lost] to a top 10 kid in the country, I think we are all very pleased with his effort."
While Soria has a ticket to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Missouri March 15-17 at the Scottrade Center, Roulo, Smith and Waste will have to wait for an at-large bid. The 40 at-large qualifiers will be selected Wednesday.