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TOM’s 2011-12 MAC Conference Preview

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Well the season is just around the corner and we have already posted our preseason rankings. We now start our conference by conference preview. We are hoping to get them all out prior to the dual season starting. This is part of our expanded coverage we are hoping to provide all of you this year. Also, look for more live blogs and audio from some of the best duals this year.

Now we move on to the MAC. The MAC in recent years has continued to improve and make some noise come March. This year the MAC is getting a fair number of new starters.

This season the team race will be very close as there are some shake-ups in the line-ups and a lot of new faces. Overall the conference is somewhat young with some of the big guns taking either an Olympic or regular redshirt year.

Lets get started; first we will look at the numbers, than the individuals and wrap it up with the team overviews.

The Numbers

  • Returning National Champs: 0
  • Returning 2011 All-Americans: 1
  • Numbers of weights with zero 2011 All-Americans: 9

Returning MAC Champions (2010) *weight listed is the weight the won

  • 125 – Nic Bedelyon (KSU)
  • 157 – Mark Lewandowski (Buffalo)
  • 165 – John-Martin Cannon (Buffalo)
  • 174 – Ben Bennett (CMU)
  • 184 – Brad Dieckhaus (NIU)

125

1 – Nic Bedelyon – Kent State
2 – Gabe Ramos – Ohio
3 – Joe Roth – C. Michigan
4 – Sean Walton – Buffalo
5 – Nick Smith – N. Illinois
6 – Jared Germaine – E. Michigan

We have a clear favorite here in Bedelyon who is coming off a season that saw him winning the MAC title. He was round of 12 last year and is a past AA that should be able to handle the rest of this field. Ramos was second last year and will be looking to knock Bedelyon out of the top spot. He will need to have improved to do that though. Walton was fourth last year and did get 20 wins on the season. Keep an eye on Roth. He had a solid season last year going 21-13 with some real nice wins. Smith was 22-9 last year and did get a win over Walton, but Walton was able to out place him at the conference tournament. Although Smith’s record lacked significant wins, it is a solid record and if he improves off that he could do alright this year. Germaine went 15-8 and split with Walton. He had a few decent wins as well.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

    1. Nic Bedelyon, KSU
    2. Joe Roth – CMU
    3. Gabe Ramos, OU
    4. Sean Walton, Buffalo

133

1 – Stevie Mitcheff – Kent State
2 – Alex Ekstrom – Buffalo
3 – Rob Jillard – N. Illinois
4 – Christian Cullinan – C. Michigan
5 – Filiberto Colon – E. Michigan
6 – Jacob Wojcik – Ohio

The news here is that All-American Scotti Sentes will most likely redshirt this season. That leaves a pretty wide open weight class. We will be honest, at this time; there really is not a clear cut favorite. Mitcheff gets the early nod as a front-runner. He comes up to 133 from 125 where he spent most of last season. He went 19-6 and had some good wins. Ekstrom transfers in from Oklahoma. He went 6-2 for the Sooners. Two matches stood out. He defeated Oklahoma State’s Schenk and only lost to Jordan Oliver 7-4. He should be able to make some noise in this open weight. Cullinan also comes up from 125 where he wrestled last season going 17-13. He will have to show some improvement over last season to have a shot at winning here. Colon was 22-13 last year but did not have any marquee wins. Wojick was 11-10 and lost to a few of the guys here. Jillard was an NCAA Qaulifer for Liberty last year.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

  1. Alex Ekstrom – Buffalo
  2. Rob Jillard – N. Illinois
  3. Stevie Mitcheff – Kent State
  4. Christian Cullinan – C. Michigan

141

1 – Kevin Smith – Buffalo
2 – Scott Mattingly – C. Michigan
3 – Seth Schaner – E. Michigan
4 – Chase Skonieczny – Kent State
5 – Kevin Fanta – N. Illinois
6 – Darrin Boing – Ohio

Kevin Smith moves up from 133 this year and is the early favorite. He was an NCAA qualifier last year and posted a 35-14 record. Smith is a solid wrestler that should be in a position to win this weight. Mattingly was last year’s runner-up at this weight. He only managed an 18-23 record last season. He did have a win over a very good Dutton of Lehigh last year. Schaner only managed 11 wins last year, but one of those was over Skonieczny. Skonieczny was 17-19 and also knocked off Dutton. Fanta moves up from 133 where he had a .500 record. Boing lost more than he won last season and will need to do better this year to make any kind of run here.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. Kevin Smith – Buffalo
      2. Scott Mattingly – C. Michigan
      3. Seth Schaner – E. Michigan
      4. Chase Skonieczny – Kent State

149

1 – Brad Squire – Ohio
2 – Marcel Clopton – Kent State
3 – Matt Smith – N. Ilinois
4 – Clay Reeb – Buffalo
5 – Jared Porter – C. Michigan
6 – Corey Phillips – E. Michigan

This weight is pretty open as well. Squire is the early favorite and should be pushed by several of the guys here. Squire went 14-4 last year and placed third in the conference tournament. He also beat Desi Green last year, if he takes a few steps forward he could have a very solid season. Expect Clopton to push for that top spot though. Coming off a 20 win season and a close loss last year to Squire, he could very well find himself standing at the top come March. Smith comes off an ok redshirt year, but we will have to wait and see where he fits. Reeb is another Oklahoma transfer for the Bulls. Reeb did not do much last year, but a change of scenery may be what he needs. Porter was lightly wrestled last year without any big wins. Phillips had his struggles last year as well.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. Brad Squire, Ohio
      2. Marcel Clopton – Kent State
      3. Matt Smith – N. Ilinois
      4. Clay Reeb – Buffalo

157

1 – Mark Lewandowski – Buffalo
2 – Donnie Corby – C. Michigan
3 – Aaron Sulzer – E. Michigan
4 – Mallie Shuster – Kent State
5 – Sam Bennett – N. Illinois
6 – Casey Gordon – Ohio

Lewandowski was last year’s champ and a round of 12 wrestler at the NCAA tournament. He comes into the season considered a real All-American threat. He came on very strong the second part of last season and if he carries that forward he should be in good shape. Corby was the runner-up last year at 149. Corby posted 25 wins last year. He knocked of Kinser at the NCAA tournament. We should see a great battle between these two. Sulzer was third last year and put together a solid season. Shuster will start for Kent State and wrestled a pretty light schedule last year finding some mild success. Bennett did go 10-3 as a redshirt last year. Keep an eye on him this year, although we do not think he will be contending just yet. Gordon did not have a great year and will need to improve.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. Mark Lewandowski – Buffalo
      2. Donnie Corby – C. Michigan
      3. Aaron Sulzer – E. Michigan
      4. Sam Bennett – N. Illinois

165

1 – John-Martin Cannon – Buffalo
2 – Ross Tice – Kent State
3 – Anthony Pace – C. Michigan
4 – Miles Chapman – Ohio
5 – Alex Ortman – E. Michigan
6 – Matt Mougin – N. Illinois

Martin Cannon is the early favorite. There is a chance he may still redshirt but according to the staff that decision has not made. Martin Cannon is the returning champion and went 1-2 at the NCAA championships. He may be pushed by Tice. Tice was third in the conference last year. He posted 30 wins last year and went 2-2 at the NCAA tournament. After that things open up. Pace did get 12 wins during his redshirt year for Central Michigan. Chapman is coming of an ok redshirt year where he was just above .500. Ortman lost more than he won and Mougin did not fair much better actually going well below .500.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. John-Martin Cannon – Buffalo
      2. Ross Tice – Kent State
      3. Anthony Pace – C. Michigan
      4. Miles Chapman – Ohio

174

1 – Nick Purdue – Ohio
2 – Brandonn Johnson – Kent State
3 – Caleb Busson – N/ Illimois
4 – Mike Ottinger – C. Michigan
5 – Justin Lozano – Buffalo
6 – Chris Eggert – E. Michigan

With Bennett moving up to 184, one would think the weight clears out, but this is most likely the deepest weight in the conference. Purdue has been solid for two years now and is coming off a 20 wins season that saw him qualify for the NCAA tournament. He is the favorite to start the season at this weight. Johnson was third last year dropping close matches to Purdue and Bennett. He should be able to push Purdue. Busson was fourth last year and will look to improve. Keep your eyes on both the true freshman starters at this weight. Ottinger comes into the season after winning a Pennsylvania state title last year and knocking off the nation’s number one recruit, Destin McCauley, in the Dapper Dan. Another talented freshman is Lozano from Buffalo. Lozano had a very good High School career in California and has the talent to compete right out of the gate. Eggert was 16-16 last year.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. Nick Purdue – Ohio
      2. Brandonn Johnson – Kent State
      3. Mike Ottinger – C. Michigan
      4. Justin Lozano – Buffalo

184

1 – Ben Bennett – C. Michigan
2 – Brad Dieckhaus – N. Illinois
3 – Casey Newburg – Kent State
4 – Jake Waste – Buffalo
5 – Ryan Garringer – Ohio
6 – Khodor Hobollah – E. Michigan

Well as you may have figured out, Bennett moves to 184. That was a bit of a head scratcher for us. It is by far the deepest and toughest weight in the country. With that said, Bennett is also one of the better guys so he should fit in well. He is our favorite here. Dieckhaus was last years champ at this weight and will be doing everything he can to retain that title. Newburg went 8-1 to close out the year with that one loss coming against Dieckhaus. Keep your eyes on Waste from Buffalo. Waste comes from power house Apple Valley and is a past Triple Crown winner. He also won the freshman division of the Kaufman/Brand tournament as a high school junior. He could make some noise here. Garringer was 15-15 last year with some decent wins and Hobollah had a pretty similar season.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. Ben Bennett – C. Michigan
      2. Brad Dieckhaus – N. Illinois
      3. Jake Waste – Buffalo
      4. Casey Newburg – Kent State

197

1 – Mike Lukowski – N. Illinois
2 – Keith Witt – Kent State
3 – Chad Friend – C. Michigan
4 – Nick Whitenburg – E. Michigan
5 – Kyle Sanders – Ohio
6 – Justin Heiserman – Buffalo

Lukowski placed third last year and is the highest returning place winner. But he is a very lukewarm favorite because he only managed an 8-19 record last year. He will be pushed and maybe surpassed by several guys here. Witt did not wrestle last year, but in our view is the actual favorite. Witt had some nice wins last season and posted a 15-9 record. Friend is solid as well, but did not do well at the conference tournament last year. Whitenburg was the three seed entering the tournament last year, but was beat by Lukowski. Sanders was 10-6 without any big wins. The surprise guy here may be the true freshman from Buffalo, Justin Heiserman. Heiserman was a two-time Michigan State champion. He could find himself contenting in such an open weight.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. Keith Witt – Kent State
      2. Chad Friend – C. Michigan
      3. Justin Heiserman – Buffalo
      4. Nick Whitenburg – E. Michigan

285

1 – Brendan Barlow – Kent State
2 – Jeremy Johnson – Ohio
3 – Peter Sturgeon – C. Michigan
4 – Brett Correll – Buffalo
5 – Jared Torrence – N. Illinois
6 – Matt Pettigrew – E. Michigan

With Trice taking an Olympic redshirt, Barlow becomes the one to beat here. Barlow was the runner-up to Trice last season. He made the round of 12 last year going 3-2 at nationals. He will be looking to earn that All-American spot this year. Sturgeon transfers in from the now defunct Greensboro program. He is a two-time NCAA qualifier and should be right there with Barlow. Do not count Johnson out here either. He was third last year dropping a very close match to Barlow in the semi-finals. Correll should be able to hold his own as well. It will be an uphill battle for Torrence and Pettigrew.

TOM’s conference tournament predictions

      1. Brendan Barlow – Kent State
      2. Jeremy Johnson – Ohio
      3. Peter Sturgeon – C. Michigan
      4. Brett Correll – Buffalo

Teams

1. Kent State
2. C. Michigan
3. Buffalo
4. Ohio
5. N. Illinois
6. E. Michigan

Team Overviews

Kent State Flashes
14-6 (Overall) and 4-1 (MAC)

Projected Lineup for Kent State

125 – Nic Bedelyon – Sr
133 – Stevie Mitcheff/Opfer – Jr
141 – Chase Skonieczny/Small – Jr
149 – Marcel Clopton/Miller – Sr
157 – Mallie Shuster/Carr – Jr
165 – Ross Tice – Sr
174 – Brandonn Johnson – So
184 – Casey Newburg – Jr
197 – Keith Witt – Jr
285 – Brendan Barlow – Sr

The Flashes will be led by two very tough wrestlers. Bedelyon is coming off another solid season and Barlow just missed All-American honors. They will also rely a lot on guys like Witt, Tice and Newberg. If these guys wrestle at the level they can the Flashes will be in pretty good shape in relation to the rest of the conference.

They will need Mitcheff, Clopton and Johnson to have solid seasons as well. If these guys wrestle to the level they did last year KSU should be able to win the conference knocking off last year conference champion Central Michigan.

TOM’s Outlook: We see three champs for the Flashes and seven finalists. If they are able to do this they should score a lot of points. With that said, they will have to perform as many of these weights could go any number of different directions.

Central Michigan Chippewa’s
8-8 (Overall) and 4-1 (MAC)

Projected Lineup for Central Michigan

125 – Joe Roth/Horan – So
133 – Christian Cullinan/Sentes/Keselring – Jr
141 – Scott Mattingly/Davis – So
149 – Jared Porter/Matthiesen/Hodgkins – Fr
157 – Donnie Corby/Martin/Kielbasa – Jr
165 – Anthony Pace/Cline/Cooley – Fr
174 – Mike Ottinger/Bill/Quinn – Fr
184 – Ben Bennett/Kelliher – Jr
197 – Chad Friend/Kelliher – Sr
285 – Peter Sturgeon/Murray – Sr

All-American Ben Bennett leads the way for the Chippewa’s. He will be with out fellow All-Americans Trice and Sentes who are both redshirting. Bennett does have a solid supporting cast and the addition of Sturgeon should also help. They will need big years out of guys like Friend, Corby and Mattingly. If those guys can improve upon last season the Chippewa’s may be in contention to repeat. Keep your eye on true freshman Ottinger. CMU has a track record of getting the most out of their freshman. If he can find his way to the conference championship match the odds of them winning the conference will go up.

TOM’s Outlook: Well we see CMU capturing one title out of five finalists. If you get five to finals you are in good shape and once you are there it is anyone’s game. They will need some of their new faces to make some statements to solidify their position on top of the MAC. They could get 6-7 guys through to the finals if things go right.

Buffalo Bulls
9-8-0 (Overall) and 2-3-0 (MAC)

Projected Lineup for Buffalo

125 – Sean Walton – So
133 – Alex Ekstrom/Farmer – So
141 – Kevin Smith/Schutt (RS?) – Sr
149 – Clay Reeb/Roulo – So
157 – Mark Lewandowski – Jr
165 – John-Martin Cannon (RS?) – Jr
174 – Justin Lozano/Waste – Fr
184 – Jake Waste – Fr
197 – Justin Heiserman – Fr
285 – Brett Correll – Jr

Buffalo will be led by a trio of guys. Lewandowski, Cannon and Smith should be the anchors of this year’s team. All three are coming off successful years and should improve. Although you should note that there is a chance that Martin Cannon may redshirt. It is expected that Schutt will redshirt this season. The Bulls will also get a boost from two transfers from the University of Oklahoma in Ekstrom and Reeb.

The trio of freshman at the back end of the line-up could potentially give the Bulls a real boost as well. Lozano is a very good wrestler that could make some noise. Waste has all the tools and has been on the big stage many times in the past, we would not be shocked to see him do some good things this year, although he is in the toughest weight class in the country. Heirseman is an under the radar kind of guy that could also open some eyes.

TOM’s Outlook: Now this will sound weird, but if things go right for them this season they could have four finalist and four champions. That would make them a legit contender for the MAC title.

Ohio Bobcats
12-5 (Overall) and 3-2 (MAC)

Projected Lineup for Ohio

125 – Gabe Ramos – Jr
133 – Jake Wojcik – Jr
141 – Darrin Boing – Sr
149 – Brad Squire – Jr
157 – Casey Gordon/Hightower – Jr
165 – Miles Chapman – So
174 – Nick Purdue – Sr
184 – Ryan Garringer – So
197 – Kyle Sanders – So
285 – Jeremy Johnson – So

Purdue, Johnson and Ramos will lead the way for Ohio. All three had good years last year and will be looking to do even better this season. They will need a bunch of guys to show improvement to move up the conference ladder. They could get that from guys like Sanders, Chapman, Garringer and Squire. If these guys take steps forward they could also find themselves in the mix next spring.

TOM’s Outlook: We see the Bobcats capturing two titles and getting three through to the finals. We would not be surprised to see one or two more finalists either.

Northern Illinois
5-11-0 (Overall) and 1-4 (MAC)

Projected Lineup for Northern Illinois

125 – Nick Smith – So
133 – Rob Jillard/Montemayor – So
141 – Kevin Fanta/Fayette – So
149 – Matt Smith – So
157 – Sam Bennett – So
165 – Matt Mougin – So
174 – Caleb Busson – So
184 – Brad Dieckhaus – Sr
197 – Mike Lukowski – Sr
285 – Jared Torrence – So

The Huskies will look towards Dieckhaus to lead a rather young team this year. Did you notice that eight of ten starters are only sophomores? The Huskies will have a very young group this season. Look for Busson and Lukowski to take steps forward and possibly move forward from their finishes last year.

TOM’s Outlook: We see one finalists and zero champs for the Huskies this year. They are a very young team so that could change, but it depends on how the younger guys develop during the season.

Eastern Michigan
10-11-0 (Overall) and 0-5 (MAC)

Projected Lineup for Eastern Michigan
125 – Jared Germaine – So
133 – Filiberto Colon – Sr
141 – Seth Schaner/LeHolm – So
149 – Corey Phillips – Sr
157 – Aaron Sulzer – Jr
165 – Alex Ortman – Jr
174 – Chris Eggert/Joseph – Jr
184 – Khodor Hobollah – So
197 – Nick Whitenburg – So
285 – Matt Pettigrew – Sr

EMU should be led by Sulzer and Schaner this season. Both will be looking to improve off of last season and make a run at the conference tournament. Whittenberg and Hobollah could also make some moves if they show improvement as could Colon.

TOM’s Outlook: We see EMU getting zero into the finals this year. We would not be surprised to see some of the EMU wrestlers exceed our current expectations.