We’re still over a month away from UB Wrestling starting their practices for the upcoming season. In the meantime, the first of many preseason ranking polls appeared and UB did have some representation. Redshirt junior Joe Ariola was ranked 20th at 184 pounds and the UB squad as a whole was tied for 51st in the WIN Magazine Tournament Power Index.
Ariola is coming off of a 14-17 redshirt sophomore campaign, but his record hides how red hot he concluded his season. Heading into the MAC tournament unseeded, Ariola upset Cole Baxter, Andy Romanchik and Drew Foster of Kent State, Ohio and Northern Iowa, respectively, to earn 4th place at the MAC Championships and a berth in the NCAA Championships.
In his first round match at the tournament Ariola earned a stunning upset victory over 3rd seed Vic Avery of Edinboro, a former All-American.
Ariola’s red-hot finish to last season was enough to garner his some preseason attention, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he appears on other publications’ preseason rankings as well.
Notable absences from the preseason rankings are Jake Gunning, Bryan Lantry, Kyle Akins, and Colt Cotten. Cotten and Lantry were both national qualifiers last season while Gunning was the MAC runner-up at heavyweight.
Buffalo’s place at 51st in the TPI is deceiving as well because the index was created based on the number of All-Americans and place finishers that each school appearing in the tournament had last season. Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, and Iowa were the top 3 in the index.
Preseason accolades and recognition are always nice but ultimately don’t mean much in the end. Coach Stutzman’s squad will hit the mat for the first time on November 13th when they head to Albany for the Journeymen Classic.