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2012-13 Preseason Preview: How will newcomers Missouri and Northern Iowa fare in Mid-American Conference?

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Updated: September 26, 2012

This is part of WIN’s on-going preseason look at all ten NCAA-qualifying conferences/tournaments.

Click here to read WIN’s other conference previews.

PREVIEWING MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE (MAC) WRESTLING IN 2012-13

Qualifying Tournament for the NCAA:

March 10, 2013 @ University of Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y.

Last Year’s Mid-American Championship Finish in Athens, Ohio:

1. Central Michigan, 89; 2. Kent State, 79; 3. Eastern Michigan, 49; 4. Ohio, 41.5; 5. Northern Illinois, 41; 6. Buffalo, 27.5.

Last Year’s MAC Performance in the NCAA Tournament:

All six schools competed in St. Louis, last March, with Central Michigan, Kent State and Ohio University earning one All-American each. In the team race, CMU, led by sixth-place finisher Ben Bennett (184), finished 24th, followed by Kent State — and sixth-place finisher Nic Bedelyon at 125 pounds — in 27th place, and Ohio finished in 33rd place with a seventh-place finish by Jeremy Johnson at heavyweight. Among the other MAC teams, Eastern Michigan claimed 48th, while Buffalo and Northern Illinois finished in 63rd and 64th-place, respectively.

2012-13 Note: Two additional schools — Missouri and Northern Iowa — have joined the Mid-American Conference and will compete in MAC tournament this season. Old Dominion will be joining the MAC beginning in the 2013-14 season.

 

WIN’S 2012-13 MAC TEAM RACE PREDICTION

1. Central Michigan — The Chippewas should win a 12th-straight Mid-American Conference championship considering coach Tom Borrelli — now beginning his 22nd year in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. — returns three former All-Americans and could challenge for the school’s highest NCAA finish (7th in 2008).

Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett (top) defeated Northern Iowa’s Ryan Loder during last winter’s Midlands. The two wrestlers could now vie for the 184-pound championship in the Mid-American Conference next March.

But only one of his wrestlers, current senior Ben Bennett, competed in last year’s national tournament when the native of Rockford, Mich., finished 34-6 and claimed his third All-American honor with a sixth-place finish at 184 pounds as the No. 3 seed. Entering his senior year with a 90-22 career mark, Bennett competed at 174 pounds before last year and claimed sixth in 2010 and eighth in 2011.

In 2012-13, a pair of seniors in 133-pound Scott Sentes and heavyweight Jarod Trice, who both redshirted last winter, will rejoin Bennett. Sentes, from Ft. Myers, Fla., is 86-25 since competing as a true freshman in 2009, when he earned the first of two All-American honors; finishing seventh at 125 pounds. Two years later, Sentes led the team with 35 victories and eventually claimed a fourth-place finish at 133. Trice, meanwhile, has also earned two All-American honors while competing in three NCAAs. In 2010, the native of Highland Park, Mich., finished eighth nationally and followed that with a fourth-place finish in 2011. Trice enters his final season with a 79-22 mark.

Meanwhile, four other competitors from last year’s NCAAs also return: 125-pound junior Joe Roth, 141-pound junior Scott Mattingly, 157-pound senior Donnie Corby and 165-pound sophomore Mike Ottinger.

2. Missouri — No school sent more representatives to last year’s national tournament than the Tigers. They also captured the team championship in their final Big 12 tournament and qualified all 10 weight classes in St. Louis, where Missouri served as a co-host for the NCAAs. Unfortunately for coach Brian Smith, there was no “home” mat advantage as no Tiger earned an All-American honor.

That included 125-pound Alan Waters, who was 29-4. He won his first Big 12 title as a sophomore and was seeded No. 3, but was upset by Pitt’s Anthony Zanetta in the second round and was eliminated in the Round of 12 by Illinois Jesse Delgado. Two other Tigers — 184-pound Mike Larson and 197-pound Brent Haynes, who will be seniors in 2012-13 — also finished one victory short of All-American honors but only Haynes earned a high seed (No. 6) after the Kansas City, Mo., native qualified for his third NCAA tournament with a 24-8 mark.

Fortunately, Smith returns seven of last year’s NCAA performers and welcomes back another Tiger in senior heavyweight Dom Bradley, who took an Olympic redshirt last season after finishing third in the 2011 NCAAs. And with Missouri joining the MAC in 2012-13, Bradley, a 2007 Junior World champion in freestyle who had to wait three years to earn a spot in Missouri’s line-up, will find a long-time rival in Central Michigan’s Trice, who lost 3-2 to Bradley in the third-place match in the Nationals of 2011 and also took a redshirt last winter.

3. Kent State — Golden Flash head coach Jim Andrassy may be without 2012 All-American Nic Bedelyon, who graduated, but he welcomes back his team leader who took an Olympic redshirt last winter: 197-pound senior Dustin Kilgore. The Golden Flash became his school’s first-ever NCAA wrestling champion — the first in any sport since 1973 — when he pinned Oklahoma State’s Clayton Foster in the 2011 finals in Philadelphia. Overall, this native of Berea, Ohio, and two-time All-American has earned 108 career victories to go along with his seventh-place national finish in 2010.

WIN ranked Kent State No. 12 in its preseason rankings and that also has to do with the fact that two other wrestlers are ranked in the Top 8. Tyler Small, a 141-pound junior, finished 32-11 last winter when the native of Littlestown, Pa., native qualified for his second national tournament. Meanwhile, Ian Miller made an even bigger impact in his rookie season last year, when the Oak Harbor, Ohio, native was named MAC Freshman of the Year and finished 29-7 overall to earn a No. 5 seed. Unfortunately, he lost in the second round and failed to place.

Another Flash to watch this year is 184-pound senior Casey Newburg, who finished 30-13 last season.

4. Northern Iowa — In leaving the Western Wrestling Conference, the Panthers of head coach Doug Schwab are saying goodbye to a conference they once dominated; winning 25 straight NCAA West Regionals (the NCAA qualifying tournament for that relatively-new WWC) before finishing second to Wyoming in both 2011 and 2012.

But these Panthers definitely have the talent to take on the MAC in 2013 as Coach Schwab returns all five qualifiers from last year’s NCAAs. The group includes 133-pound Joe Colon who came the closest of the UNI quintet to earn All-American honors when the then-sophomore reached the quarterfinals as a No. 5 seed. Unfortunately, the 2011 junior college national champion (for Iowa Central) lost his next two matches to finish 27-5 in his first year in Division I.

Meanwhile two other returning NCAA qualifiers have a legitimate shot of placing in 2012-13: senior David Bonin (157) and junior Ryan Loder (184). Bonin finished 30-9 after qualifying for his second NCAAs, where he pinned Harvard’s No. 4-seed Walter Peppelman in the first round before dropping his next two bouts. Loder, the 2011 WWC Freshman of the Year, qualified for his second NCAA and came within one match of earning All-American honors as an unseeded wrestler in St. Louis.

5. Ohio University — The Bobcats’ head coach Joel Greenlee, now in his 15th year in Athens, Ohio, once earned two All-American honors as a heavyweight at Northern Iowa. So it should not be surprising that Ohio’s top national threat in 2013 is also a big man in junior Jeremy Johnson, who capped off last season’s 35-7 mark with a MAC championship and seventh-place national finish in St. Louis.

Johnson was one of two Bobcats to qualify for the Nationals. The other is 184-pound Ryan Garringer, who finished 18-15 last winter, which included a 1-2 mark at the NCAAs.

6. Eastern Michigan — Four Eagles — the most since 1996 — earned trips to last year’s Nationals and two return for 2013: 157-pound senior Aaron Sulzer and 174-pound junior Phillip Joseph, who each finished 1-2 in St. Louis. That marked the second straight national tournament for Sulzer, who was 21-11 last winter, while Joseph finished 20-11 after overcoming an injury which sidelined him a year earlier.

Coach Derek DelPorto, who begins his eighth year at the helm, is also expected to insert redshirt freshman Vincent Pizzuto into the EMU line-up to replace NCAA qualifier Joe Germaine at 125 pounds. Last year, the native of North Jackson, Ohio, finished 30-5 wrestling unattached.

7. Buffalo — Coach Jim Beichner plans on an enjoyable 19th season, especially since Buffalo will play host to the MAC Championships. Among the most notable wrestlers to challenge for another trip to the NCAA will be 157-pound Mark Lewandowski, who led all wrestlers at his weight with 32 wins last winter. Meanwhile 125-pound Max Soria (21-17) and 149-pound Blake Roulo (22-13) each recorded over 20 wins.

8. Northern Illinois — Coach Ryan Ludwig begins his second year by returning seven starters from 2011. That includes one of two wrestlers who competed in last year’s NCAAs: junior Kevin Fanta, who finished 13-7 last winter at 141 pounds.

 

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