Finishing strong

Wrestling wants to end season on high note

wrestling

The Bulls, in a season with its share of ups and downs, return to Alumni Arena after three weeks away and want to continue their winning ways.

Buffalo wresting (9-4, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) is back this Friday night to face off with the Central Michigan Chippewas (3-6, 2-3 MAC) at 7 p.m. The Chippewas lost four of their last five matches. The Bulls look to finish their final month of the season on a hot streak with three-straight home matches. Head coach John Stutzman believes individual motivations will propel the team to success.

“It is an individual sport,” Stutzman said. “It is big for these guys because they are starting to earn bids for themselves to get to the national tournament and to build their resumes. Then, if they do well, the team is going to do well so it’s a bit of a catch-22.”

Seniors like Kyle Akins and Bryan Lantry are just a couple of the wrestlers leading the charge and Stutzman is noticing. Akins, at 125 pounds, is 11-6 on the year and has 18 takedowns. Akins is the active leader for career wins. Lantry, at 141 pounds, is a perfect 8-0 this year. Last season, Lantry became the first wrestler in school history to make it to the championship round at Midlands. 

“I think they would like to go out feeling good about their careers and where the program is,” Stutzman said. “It will be quite the challenge, but I really think they are excited for this stretch.”

The Bulls did not let the 0-2 start to MAC play get to them. The team, after a loss to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (1-10, 1-5 MAC), had a meeting that was productive and propelled them to victory against a solid Old Dominion (7-5, 4-2 MAC) team. The loss in Edwardsville was something to bounce back from.

“We needed to bounce back from our performance against Southern,” Stutzman said. “That stunned us and brought us back to reality. I had to re-evaluate some things with the guys. We had a good in-house conversation and I think it has helped. Right after that, we went out and beat a team getting votes in the national rankings.”

The Bulls won their last two matches, which were both road MAC matchups. Buffalo recovered in the conference standings after starting off MAC play 0-2. Taking care of business in the MAC is a large part of finding success, according to Stutzman.

 “It is no doubt a different league. It is a very strong league,” Stutzman said. “We have power-five schools in the MAC, as far as Missouri goes they are an SEC team in the MAC for wrestling.”

The guys on the team may not be too concerned with the MAC standings, however, as wrestling is an individual sport. The MAC Championship is not the only goal the team has in mind. Wrestlers want to be national champions and All-Americans at their weight class.

As the season comes to an end, Stutzman’s message remains the same.

“I am hoping that [the team] follows each other’s leads and performs to go and win a MAC Title and then get to the national tournament and perform well there,” Stutzman said. 

Nikko Lazzara is a staff writer and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com