Mercyhurst's Landowski excels after change in wrestling focus
By Bill West
Published: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, 11:21 p.m.
Before he became the best 149-pound NCAA Division II wrestler in the state — if not a considerable portion of the country — Jeremy Landowski realized he needed to stop paying so much attention to the way his opponents operated.
Landowski, a redshirt sophomore at Mercyhurst and a 2011 Burrell grad, squeezed the full potential out of his own talents once he simplified the way he viewed challengers about a year ago. A surge of assurance followed.
Now, Landowski has embarked on a career-changing win streak that's put him on a short list of NCAA title contenders.
“Once my confidence gets rolling, the matches just get easier and easier,” said Landowski, who is 14-4 overall — including 11-1 against Division II opponents — and has won 10 matches in a row. “It's just a big mental game for me. My freshman year, I was concentrating more on what other kids would do. I really feel like now I'm wrestling my match, my style, and just attacking more.”
Landowski started as a freshman 141-pounder and finished his debut season with a 15-12 record.
Last season, he redshirted and primarily competed at open tournaments that allowed him to square off against college-level opponents without wasting eligibility. Landowski, who alternated between the 141- and 149-pound weight classes, finished the season with a 26-7 record that included nine pins and seven major decisions, and he won titles at the Niagara County Community College Open, the Mount Union Open and the Jamestown (N.Y.) Community College Open.
Back in the Lakers' lineup this winter but slowed a bit by injury, Landowski went 4-4 through November and December. Some of the losses came as little surprise: At the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament, he lost 5-4 to Justin Arthur (22-8) of Division I Clarion and also dropped a 19-7 major decision to Edinboro's David Habat (21-4), who is ranked No. 16 in Division I.
The arrival of a new year seemingly brought forth a new Landowski, who moved himself up to No. 1 in the NCAA Division II Super Region One ranking for 149-pounders over the course of January.
Key to that ascension was a 11-5 win over Kutztown's Joe Esposito, the previous holder of the top spot in Super Region One, which includes teams from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Massachusetts. Esposito, like several of Landowski's other opponents, scored first, as he got a takedown just 10 seconds in the match. But Landowski rallied late in first period and pulled away thereafter.
“I feel like my whole career, as the match goes on, I get better,” he said. “I definitely don't want to give up the first takedown in every match, but it happens sometimes. I'm just working on putting whole matches together. That'll propel me at the end of the year when I'll be in very tight matches, and that first takedown will be very important.”
Mercyhurst coach Mike Wehler is one person who has no worries about Landowski's slow starts.
“He wrestles a hard seven minutes, and I think he's been getting sharper as the year goes on,” Wehler said. “I think he'll be firing on all cylinders come tournament time.”
Landowski attributes his style and his work ethic to his time at Burrell. He believes he and fellow Burrell alums Brian Beattie, a redshirt sophomore 197-pounder, and freshman 184-pounder Dakota DesLauriers all provide Mercyhurst (14-1), which is ranked No. 9 in Division II, the Bucs' trademark brand of intensity — Beattie is 10-9 overall this season, while DesLauriers is 5-6.
Another Burrell alum, 2006 graduate Josh Shields, set the bar for success at Mercyhurst when he became the Lakers' first national champ in 2009.
“What they started building, I just want to keep building on that,” Landowski said of Josh Shields and his brother, Jordan, another Mercyhurst standout. “I want to keep the tradition alive of Burrell wrestlers coming here and having success.”
Josh Shields had a chance to coach Landowski at the PSAC championships when Wehler left the team to handle a family issue.
“All of his hard work is finally paying off,” said Shields, who has known Landowski for more than a decade. “He has really started believing in himself and believing in his offense on his feet, which is the area where he somewhat struggled in high school. Now he's the one going after takedowns. But he's got that last piece down, that mental piece, so the sky is the ceiling for him. ... I know his goal is to be a national champ, and the way he's going, it's certainly achievable.”
Before Landowski begins the NCAA individual postseason March 1 at the Super Region One tournament, he might square off with his cousin, Cole Landowski, a freshman 149-pounder at Pitt-Johnstown and Kiski Area alum. Mercyhurst and Pitt-Johnstown meet Feb. 19 in Johnstown, which also is the host site of the regional championships.
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