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Buffalo Bulls Wrestling vs. #21 Northern Iowa Panthers Preview / Gamethread

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It's the final time out on the mat for John Stutzman's squad in the regular season before they prepare for the MAC Tournament a few weeks down the line. Today will also mark the final dual meet for several seniors so be sure to check out the senior salute post. Coming off of a 2-0 weekend that saw his team beat in-state rival Binghamton and MAC-rival Northern Illinois, Stutzman will conclude the regular season by welcoming in nationally ranked Northern Iowa.

Northern Iowa Panthers (3-10, 2-5 MAC)

All-Time Series: Northern Iowa leads 3-0

Last Meeting: UB lost 37-0

2015 Common Opponents: The MAC

Event Details: Friday, February 19th, 7PM, Alumni Arena

Event Coverage: Bull Run, ESPN 3

Projected Matchups

125: #33 Kyle Akins (Buffalo) vs. Leighton Gaul (Northern Iowa)

133: Bryan Lantry (Buffalo) vs. #15 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa)

141: Brandon Lapi (Buffalo) vs. Tyler Willers (Northern Iowa)

149: Colt Cotten (Buffalo) vs. Adam Perrin (Northern Iowa)

157: Alex Smythe (Buffalo) vs. Zach Witte (Northern Iowa)

165: Rrok Ndokaj (Buffalo) vs. Taylor Berger (Northern Iowa)

174: Tyler RIll (Buffalo) vs. Kyle Lux (Northern Iowa)

184: Joe Ariola (Buffalo) vs. Drew Foster (Northern Iowa)

197: James Benjamin (Buffalo) vs. Cody Krumwiede (Northern Iowa)

285: Jake Gunning (Buffalo) vs. #18 Blaize Cabell (Northern Iowa)

What to Watch For

Despite their paltry 3-10 dual meet record, the Northern Iowa Panthers are much stronger than their record shows. If you follow college wrestling at all you'll notice that two significant names are missing from the Northern Iowa lineup with All-American Dylan Peters and NCAA Qualifier Cooper Moore out at 125 and 165 pounds respectively. Peters has been ranked in the top 5 in the naiton and Moore has been ranked in the top 15 and are both significant losses when not in the lineup. However, Northern Iowa will rely on strong performers at the front and back end of their lineup highlighted by former NCAA Qualifier Blaize Cabell and Josh Alber.

The matchup between Cabell and Jake Gunning could very well be a potential preview of the MAC Championship match at 285 pounds. Cabell has been the top ranked heavyweight in the MAC for the majority of the season, while Gunning has moved into 2nd in the most recent polls. If Gunning can pull an upset here then his odds of winning a MAC Championship will increase greatly.

The key for UB to get their 11th win and hand the Panthers their 11th loss will be taking advantage of some of the soft spots in the UNI lineup. In particular, Kyle Akins will need to get off to a strong start against Dylan Peters' backup Leighton Gaul; Akins has been an effective momentum builder for the Bulls and he should continue his upward trajectory. Other grapplers that will need to have a solid outing are James Benjamin, Colt Cotten and Joe Ariola. Benjamin is coming off the most impressive two match stretch of his career which includes a huge upset win over #18 Shawn Scott of NIU and parlaying that momentum into a win today would be helpful. Cotten and Ariola will look to finish their MAC slates strong after having up-and-down dual meet seasons. Both are capable of putting up bonus points for UB; and as we've seen in several of the dual meets that UB has won (NIU, ODU, Binghamton, among others) bonus points have proven to be the key to victory.

Given the injuries that the Panthers have sustained and if they don't wrestle several of their nationally ranked guys as they haven't in recent weeks, the Bulls have an excellent chance to get their 3rd MAC win and cap off an excellent regular season.