What: #23 Hofstra University vs. Buffalo
When: Sunday February 15th, 2009
Time: 1pm EST
Where: Alumni Arena (Buffalo, NY)
The Matchup: #20 Steve Bonanno (HU) vs. Dan Bishop (Buffalo)
Synopsis: Depending on how well Bonanno performed against the #1 wrestler in the nation, Paul Donahoe, the true freshman will either be riding a high, or so intent on getting back on the winning side that he will come out on a mission. Either way, I think he will find himself getting his hand raised in this one to give the Pride the early lead. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, Bonanno has been the biggest surprise of 2009 for HU. Entering tomorrow’s dual second on the team in wins, the 2008 NYS Champion has showed that he is every bit as dangerous on the mat, as he is from his feet. Bishop, a former Junior National Greco Champion, has stuggled at times for the Buffalo, compiling a 10-15 record. However, as would be consistent with his elite Greco ability, Bishop has demonstrated big move potential, leading the team with five pins on the year. While my gut feeling tells me that Bonanno should have the advantage from the feet and could possibly get a tilt, the true is that at no time during this match, should he take his opponent lightly. Regardless of score, Bishop has to be considered dangerous to hit a throw. If Bonanno establishes his offense early, look for him to threaten for bonus points.
Prediction: Bonanno Wins By Decision
Projected Team Score: 3-0 Hofstra
Result: Bonanno (HU) Dec Bishop (Buffalo), 6-3
The Matchup: #8 Lou Ruggirello (HU) vs. Kevin Smith (Buffalo)
Synopsis: Kevin Smith has been out of the lineup of late for Buffalo. If he scratches again tomorrow, the onus of stepping in against HU’s top-10 wrestler will fall on true freshman, Taylor Golba, a competitor that I watched a lot of over the course of the past four years during his time at St. Joseph’s Collegiate. Taking nothing away from either young man from UB, but if you are a HU enthusiast (as I am), you need to be looking for bonus points at this weight class. In the past two weeks, Ruggirello has been almost impossible to score on. Hence, if he is unable to lock up double bars for the pin, it is likely that he will at least manage to accumulate significant riding time. And, as a lot of nationally ranked opponents have learned the past 2.5 years, the longer you allow King Louie to be on top of you, the more likely you are to find yourself getting put on your back. While a pin here would help the Pride built a solid early lead, if it does not occur, I would expect the final score to be in the area of 8-0, 9-0. Golba is more of a natural 125 pounder. Therefore, if he is called into duty, it is going to be an uphill battle to fend off a bigger, stronger, more polished wrestler like the junior from Central Valley.
Prediction: Ruggirello Wins By Major Decision
Projected Team Score: 7-0 Hofstra
Result: Ruggirello (HU) Pinned Golba (Buffalo) 1:20
The Matchup: Justin Accordino (HU) vs. Mark Lewandowski (Buffalo)
Synopsis: Entering the dual with a respectable 14-9 record overall, Lewandowski has struggled slightly in duals this season, going only 3-5. However, as should be the case with most former NYS finalists, Accordino should not underestimate his fellow freshman. The RS freshman from Wilkes-Barre is probably one of, if not the most explosive and exciting wrestler in the HU lineup. As I have documented several times in the past, he is so schooled in hitting the cement mixer that he is a threat at all times to either make a huge comeback or blow open a tight match. I don’t know how much Lewandowski has scouted Accordino. However, for the sake of the Buffalo, on would hope that should he find himself in a front headlock position than he proceed with extreme caution and be ready to react should the HU frosh go for broke. Over the course of the past few weeks, Accordino has seemed to look for the big move a tad too much. Against an opponent that he considered less skillful than him, Justin needs to refocus on the fundamentals and be content to finish single and double legs. With HU expected to win the dual by a fairly comfortable margin, a pin is not going to be necessary. Hence, with the postseason not too far away, it never hurts to return to the basics. It was this gameplan that served Accordino well when he defeated Missouri’s top-15 wrestler, Marcus Hoehn, early in the season.
Prediction: Accordino Wins By Decision
Projected Team Score: 10-0 Hofstra
Result: Accordino (HU) Pinned Lewandowski (Buffalo) 0:40
The Matchup: Jeff Rotella (HU) vs. Desi Green (Buffalo)
Synopsis: If this had been a matchup of the regular starters, I would have considered it the bout of the afternoon. A battle of two former NYS Champions is always a match that a fan should get excited about. Unfortunately, it would appear that normal Pride starter, P.J. Gillespie will remain on the shelf for another week while allowing a sore shoulder to properly heal. What this means, is that utilityman extraordinaire, Jeff Rotella, will more than likely be summoned for service. While there is no doubting Rotella’s heart and effort (he gives it his all despite using wrestling up two weight classes), the simple fact is that for an individual not blessed with the most natural talent, it is always going to be a struggle to stay competitive against a larger, more polished opponent. Over the past few weeks, it just happens that Rotella has run into a series of buzzsaws (Grajales, Torsten Gillespie). It does not expect to get much easier for the Pride team member tomorrow, as he finds himself pitted against a wrestler who is as hot as can be. Having defeated Central Michigan’s Steve Brown to end the month of January, Desi Green has been hands down the best wrestler in the UB lineup. Taking into account his size and speed advantage, one should think that Green will be able to assert his will on Rotella and get his team back into the dual by earning bonus points.
Prediction: Green Wins By Major Decision
Projected Team Score: 10-4 Hofstra
Result: Green (Buffalo) MD Rotella (HU), 25-13
The Matchup: Fran O’Brien (HU) vs. John-Martin Cannon (Buffalo)
Synopsis: A multiple time NYS placewinner for Brockport High School, Cannon too find himself with an opportunity to threaten bonus points against the second consecutive Pride backup. Following a reaggravation of a pre-existing injury, 2008 Honorable Mention All-American, Jon Bonilla-Bowman is no doubt a scratch for tomorrow. Again, the absence of their starter will force the HU coaching staff to insert an undersized wrestler in the lineup. That wrestler is expected to be RS freshman, Fran O’Brien. O’Brien has a very bad home debut for the Pride last week, getting pinned in the first period by the Big Red’s DJ Meagher. Therefore, perhaps the native of the Sunshine State will come out tomorrow with a fire in his belly. Unfortunately, until I see that he is able to successfully handle going up against larger opponents, I must give the sizable advantage to the Buffalo wrestler. While I am calling for bonus points here, it is only as a means of exploring the worst case scenario. While ultimately I am condifent that Cannon will win, it would not surprise me to see O’Brien put up a good fight and rally late to avoid surrendering anything beyond a regular decision.
Prediction: Cannon Wins by Major Decision
Projected Team Score: 10-8 Hofstra
Result: Cannon (Buffalo) Dec O’Brien (HU), 10-4