UB wrestling dominates early, holds on late to defeat Binghamton

Akins sets tone, Gunning closes victory for Bulls at home


The Buffalo wrestling team dominated Binghamton early Friday with its lightweights. But after seeing an 18-point lead reduced to six, Buffalo relied on its heavyweights to seal the victory. 

The Bulls (9-8, 1-5 Mid-American Conference) defeated in-state rival Binghamton (10-6, 6-3 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) 24-12 at Alumni Arena on Friday afternoon. A win over Binghamton gave the Bulls their ninth win of the season, their most since the 2010-11 season, and leaves them looking for one more to reach the 10-win plateau. The Bulls haven’t won 10 dual matches in a season since the 2003-04 season.

“This was a good win for us against a state rival,” said head coach John Stutzman. “It gets us closer to 10 wins, and our first winning season in a long time. It was tough those other years when we kept losing. We would come back here just devastated.”

With five of the nation’s top 25 teams residing in the MAC Conference, the young Bulls roster has seen and went up against some of the best wrestlers in the nation. Against Binghamton, the Bulls and some of the players on the roster went up against some familiar faces.

Bulls redshirt freshman Kyle Akins came out first and set the tone for the Bulls. The 125-pounder scored a swift pin fall victory over Binghamton opponent Steven Bulzomi. Akins said he knew that the first takedown was important and knew he had a chance for victory “after the first takedown” when he could “feel him crack.”

Akins’ leadoff victory was the first of four consecutive wins for the Bulls against the Bearcats. Freshmen 133-pounder Bryan Lantry and 141-pounder Brandon Lapi both recorded decision victories, while sophomore 141-pounder Colt Cotten won by pinfall. The lead looked to be a convincing one for Buffalo, but Binghamton fought back, winning the next four events.

Scraping together a string of hard contested wins, Binghamton gradually closed the gap. Soon in jeopardy of losing their lead, the Bulls dug deep for a gritty finish, which decisively concluded the competition. It was at that moment, Stutzman told his team to believe.

“You’ve got to believe in the system,” Stutzman said. “When it comes to adversity, he knows just how to weather the storm. You can never waiver. And I never waiver. We have to believe in ourselves.”

The Bulls took that hard, winning their last matches. Freshman 285-pounder Jake Gunning and junior 197-pounder James Benjamin won, preserving the win for the Bulls. Both wrestlers won by decision to maintain a victory for Buffalo. After the match, Gunning said that he knew that he had the victory in hand because “he knew he was better than that guy."

"We wrestled in high school, and he was better than me then. But he knew he was better than him now,” Gunning said.

The Bulls will return back to the mat on Sunday against Northern Illinois (6-8, 1-5 MAC) on Sunday. The dual meet is set for 1 p.m.

Landin Murphy is a contributing sports writer. Sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com