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Takeaways from Buffalo Wrestling's unbeaten day at Maryland's Terrapin Duals

Matt Gritzmacher

Check the sidebar for our recap and one from Testudo Times, SB Nation's Maryland blog, of yesterday's Terrapin Duals, where UB went 2-0 with a pair of wins. For the most part, since only Maryland's match against Pitt (plenty exciting in its own right) was broadcast on one of the Big Ten Network's internet options, most fans have been going off just Twitter updates from UB and Maryland, especially after my phone died at the beginning of Colt Cotten's match against Wade Hodges.

Judging by the team and individual scores, you might think this was a close match in which UB did well to avoid major decisions in losses and eked out decisions from other tough matchups in the heavier weights to claim a narrow victory. Inside the arena, it really didn't feel that way, especially after Cotten's win and with my phone off and connection to Twitter severed.

What we learned

Our first look at the team exceeded even John's preseason expectations

Keep in mind that 48 hours ago, John predicted UB would send a program record-tying six wrestlers to the national tournament. I generally default to his expertise and see the same surge of young talent now that John Stutzman's program is finding its footing. He told me privately that we should expect a win against Davidson and not be surprised by a close contest with Maryland. He certainly wasn't expecting UB's first shutout of a D-1 opponent since 1999 or a win over a Big Ten program.

Worry about the heavier weights no longer

Last season UB would get through 157 leading narrowly or trailing by a single result but fall off in the second half. That won't be a problem this season. From Tyler Rill, through Muhamed McBryde, Joe Ariola, and James Benjamin, UB won four straight in the upper weights to come from behind and clinch the dual victory:

  • Rill stayed safe and in control through a mostly-standing and grappling match that saw both manage escapes early in the second and third periods after Tyler had taken the lead with a late takedown in the first.
  • McBryde's opponent was working up a weight class, and it showed. Muhamed also got a late takedown in the first (after a good challenge from Stutzman) and then outmuscled his opponent without issue the remaining four minutes.
  • Ariola's head wasn't really in the match at first, but he managed a quick escape when taken down in the first, then flipped the tide with an escape and takedown in the second. From then, he wasn't really threatened and boosted his score by capitalizing on a late mistake from his opponent.
  • Benjamin was similarly unchallenged, though he wasn't able to gain control after a first-period takedown. He managed a huge reversal out of the starting position midway through the second that turned into four tilt points that sealed the match for the Bulls.
All four came in different ways, but other than Joe Ariola needing a bit of a wakeup, none of these guys were really threatened even in closer matches points-wise. These were the types of things where it would have been Maryland eking out a decision with a quick few points rather than the Bulls capitalizing on some luck. I might be more hesitant to say this against a different opponent, but across the board the Bulls look simply physically stronger than I remember from 157 to 197 last year.

This was closer to a bigger UB win than it was to a nailbiter or loss

In addition to the four above, Colt Cotten really controlled his match despite needing the riding time to win 2-1. He only allowed a point because he grabbed his opponent's headgear, and seemed a bit amped up after Davidson forfeited in his weight in the first match. Though he trailed 1-0 after two, he had also racked up a full two minutes riding time, and needed only to escape within the first minute of the third and easily avoid Hodges' shoots to claim the win.

Of Maryland's four decisions, two were not far from being UB wins. Jason Estevez went up against (OpenMat) #20 Alfred "Baby J" Bannister and narrowly lost, 3-2, just missing by inches three different opportunities for takedowns. Bannister is an almost certain national qualifier this year: Yesterday he started his day by beating Pitt's reigning ACC Champion at 133, he was 37-4 in open competition last year, and he's the all-time winningest wrestler in Maryland High School history. And still, Estevez had two opportunities in the final minute to get a takedown and the lead.

Similarly, after the match was sealed Jake Gunning looked the stronger wrestler against (OpenMat) #20 Dawson Peck at heavyweight. He had Peck by the leg and got him to the ground three times in the first five minutes, but could never gain control for the two points, and ran out of gas in the third period.  Really the only matches that went definitively to Maryland were 133, where even with Geoff Alexander recovering from a neck injury Tyler Goodwin was plenty capable, flipping Bryan Lantry early for some tilt points and getting more after Lantry nearly escaped, and 157, where Tim Schaefer was on the wrong side of a couple scramble situations against (OpenMat) #19 Lou Mascola but still managed to keep close and avoid a major decision.

Even to the novice eye, the program has taken a big step forward emotionally

Gunning and Lantry were really the only two wrestlers who weren't stronger than their opponents in the third period, and UB fought to the end more than I saw last year. Kyle Akins at 125 had a great combo in the final minute to reclaim the lead and start UB out, Estevez nearly won against Bannister at the end, Cotten wore Hodges down, and Schaefer won the third after a few bad breaks in the second. Then we got to Rill through Benjamin. Considering three of UB's four losses came to guys on the edge of the national rankings, this was a solid showing.

UB's next in action in two weeks at the Northeast Duals, where they'll take on Lock Haven, Springfield, and West Virginia.