With all of the attention being paid to the Men's and Women's basketball games on Saturday, the MAC wrestling championships have crept up and are finally upon us. First year Head Coach John Stutzman was welcomed to the MAC with a brutal schedule featuring several squads ranked in the top 10 in the nation. The Bulls limped to a 3-17 overall record in Stutzman's first season at the helm, including an 0-8 mark in the MAC.
A silver lining for the Bulls this year is the amount of automatic bids to the NCAA tournament that the MAC received. In total, the MAC was alotted 41 automatic qualifiers, the weight class breakdown is as follows:
- 125, 149 lbs - 4 bids
- 133, 141, 157, 174, 184 lbs - 5 bids
- 197 lbs - 2 bids
- 165, 285 lbs - 3 bids
125 lbs - Max Soria
Two-time NCAA qualifier Max Soria looks to return to the National Championships for the third consecutive year. After battling injuries for much of the season Soria finished the regular season with a 13-10 record and earned the 7th seed in the tournament. With 5 of the wrestlers ahead of him ranked in the top 33 in the nation, including #3 Dylan Peters of Northern Iowa, Soria has a tough road to return to Oklahoma City, but he has the veteran savvy and experience to secure an automatic bid.
133 lbs - Justin Farmer
Senior Justin Farmer is looking to reach the national tournament for the first time in his career. He finished the regular season with 12 wins to his credit, and is unseeded entering the MAC Championships. Farmer's path to Oklahoma City will be difficult given the amount of ranked competition in the bracket. To win a MAC Title, Farmer will likely have to go through #3 Joe Colon of Northern Iowa, who he lost to earlier in the season by technical fall.
141 lbs - #30 Nick Flannery
Cleveland State transfer Nick Flannery was a pleasant surprise for the Bulls this season. He finished the regular season with an 18-14 record, and the only Bull ranked in the top 33 in the RPI rankings. Flannery earned the 7 seed in the tournament and with a strong tournament has the ability to make a run for the title. Earlier in the season Flannery upset 1 seed Chris Mecate 12-7; Mecate is currently ranked the #2 wrestler in the country at 141 lbs.
149 lbs- Ryan Todora
Freshman Ryan Todora finished the regular season 6-22, and enters the MAC tournament unseeded. Todora struggled during the regular season being a first-year wrestler in a difficult weight class. This will most likely be a valuable learning experience for Todora, who will gain post season experience early in his career that will help him when he is an upperclassman.
157 lbs- Wally Maziarz
Junior, and Tonawanda native Wally Maziarz finished the regular season 12-17 and was one of UB's most consistent wrestlers on the mat. Maziarz enters the MAC tournament unseeded and is seeking his first bid to the NCAA tournament. The former Greco-Roman All-American will face stiff competition with the likes of #7 Ian Miller of Kent State, and #10 Joseph LaVallee of Missouri.
165 lbs- Jake Campana
Freshman Jake Campana, much like fellow freshman Ryan Todora will be cutting his teeth in postseason action at the MAC Tournament this weekend. Campana finished the regular season 5-5, and enters the tournament unseeded. Campana was bumped up to the 165 lb weight class from his usual 157 lb weight class so Wally Maziarz could wrestle at his natural 157 lbs. Wrestling up a weight class is never an easy task, especially for a freshman. Campana will have to deal with the likes of #4 Cooper Moore of Northern Iowa, and #11 Zach Toal of Missouri.
174 lbs- Rrok Ndokaj
Redshirt Freshman Rrok Ndokaj, a transfer from Bloomsburg, following Coach Stutzman to UB, finished the regular season and 11-17, and enters the MAC Tournament unseeded. Ndokaj started the season strong, starting 9-4, but struggled down the stretch. Ndokaj is also wrestling up a weight class, like Jake Campana. Ndokaj is in the same boat as Campana, wrestling up a weight class and with not much experience the tournament is about experience.
184 lbs- Tony Lock
In a season mired with loss, Sophomore Tony Lock has been a standout on the mat for the Bulls this season. Lock finished the regular season 18-14, and earned the 5th seed in the MAC Tournament. Lock was the runner-up in the Oklahoma Gold Invitational and the New York State Collegiate Wrestling Championships, and is carrying a good amount of momentum into the postseason. Lock has a very good chance to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and if he at least makes it to the consolation finals he will be strong candidate to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA's. Lock has dropped a few close decisions to the grapplers seeded higher than him, and he will be looking to avenge the losses from earlier in the season.
197 lbs- Angelo Malvestuto
Niagara Falls native Angelo Malvestuto was one of the Bulls' most consistent wrestlers, finishing the regular season 16-17; at one point, Malvestuto 16-11, but, he struggled down the stretch. Malvestuto enters the MAC Tournament unseeded and will be looking to bounce back from his late season struggles to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Malvestuto will be looking to avenge earlier season losses to #4 J'Den Cox of Missouri, and Kevin Beazley of Old Dominion. Malvestuto has a good shot at securing a spot in Oklahoma if he returns to early season form and wrestles well this weekend.
Heavyweight- James Benjamin
Rounding out the UB wrestlers participating in Kent is freshman James Benjamin. Benjamin enters the tournament unseeded and a regular season record of 8-23. Benjamin recently upset MAC 5 seed Khodor Hoballah of Eastern Michigan in the penultimate match of the regular season, and will look to carry over that momentum into this weekend. The heavyweight class features #7 Jeremy Johnson of Ohio, and #20 Devin Mellon of Missouri, so Benjamin has his work cut out for him if he wants to make it to Oklahoma City as a true freshman.
The MAC Wrestling Tournament starts Saturday, March, 8th with preliminary round matches starting at noon, and semifinal matches starting at 4 PM. Action resumes on Sunday, March, 9th with the consolation semifinals starting at noon, and the Championship finals starting at 1:20 PM.
The Tournament can be streamed live on Flowrestling.com, and on the Kent State Golden Flashes station on iheartradio.com.