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Friday, June 21, 2024
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The Cannon Goes Off in DeKalb; Championship Mania at the MACs

The wrestling team set out to do something that no other wrestling team has ever done at UB; win a Mid-American Conference championship.

The Bulls (9-8, 2-3 MAC) may have fallen short of their ultimate goal at the 2011 MAC Wrestling Championships, but four wrestlers left Northern Illinois with individual accolades.

Sophomores Andrew Schutt and Mark Lewandowski, and juniors Desi Green and John-Martin Cannon won MAC Championships in their respective weight classes. All four wrestlers earned automatic bids to the NCAA Wrestling Tournament. The MAC Championships were the first for Schutt, Lewandowski, and Cannon. Green grabbed his second-consecutive MAC title.

Sophomore Brett Correll finished fourth in the heavyweight class, but was awarded third place due to a medical forfeit by Ohio's Jeremy Johnson. He will wrestle at the NCAA tournament since the MAC is given four qualifiers in the heavyweight class.

Green breezed through the quarterfinals and semifinals. He defeated Northern Illinois' Vince Castillo, 12-3, and Kent State's Marcel Clopton, 4-0. The victory over Clopton was career win number 100 for Green, which made him the sixth UB wrestler to reach that milestone. In the championship round, Green defeated Central Michigan's Donny Corby in a 3-1 decision en route to the 149-pound MAC title. He's the second Bulls wrestler to win back-to-back MAC championships.

Perhaps most impressive, though, was Cannon being named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. He became the first Bulls wrestler to win the award.

Assistant coach Frank Beasley believes the award was a testament to Cannon's skill set.

"He's had a solid year, but really, he's as good as any guy in the country," Beasley said. "Today he showed how good he really is by beating a two time All-American. The sky is the limit for John-Martin."

Cannon defeated Ross Tice of Kent State by a score of 4-1, a match that he wasn't supposed to win on paper. He then pulled another upset over Central Michigan's Mike Miller in a 6-5 decision to claim the title in the 165-pound weight class.

In the 157-pound weight class, Lewandowski defeated Ryan Cubberly of Central Michigan to earn a trip to the finals. There, he defeated Northern Illinois' Bryan Deutsch in a 10-9 decision. At one point in the match, Lewandowski trailed 9-6, only to orchestrate a ferocious comeback en route to the title.

The fact that he came back in that fashion speaks volumes about his winning attitude.

"Champions never quit," Beasley said. "[Lewandowski] has a never-say-die attitude. It was a back-and-forth match, and he got in a position where he was in trouble. He was losing and there wasn't much time left in the match, but he didn't hang his head. He kept plugging away and pulled it out, and that's what the best guys in the country do."

The final individual champion of the day for the Bulls was Schutt, who picked up the title in the 141-pound weight class. He knocked off Central Michigan's Scott Mattingly in a 6-1 sudden victory in the final round after clipping Kent State's Chase Skonieczny 5-2 in the semifinals.

Lost in all of the individual success that Bulls wrestlers enjoyed on Sunday was the success of the team as a whole. The Bulls entered the final day of the MAC tournament tied for second place, sitting just 6.5 points behind first-place Central Michigan.

Beasley believes that Sunday was the most important day in program history.

"Today showed that we're as good as any team in the country," Beasley said. "Central Michigan and Kent State are both ranked in the top 25, and we went out there and battled with them. We had more champions than them, and we qualified more guys to the national tournament than we ever have."

Despite the fact that they couldn't capitalize on their early-tournament momentum, the Bulls still placed third, which is tied for the best finish in program history.

Beasley couldn't say enough about the effort that his wrestlers put forward throughout the weekend.

"I'm extremely proud," Beasley said. "They all showed a lot of heart. All season we had a very good team, and we've been on the brink of doing great things, and I really think we did that this weekend."

The Bulls will send their five representatives to Philadelphia for the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The tournament will take place from March 17-19.

E-mail: sports@ubspectrum.com


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