Wrestlers are a different breed.

They constantly count calories to maintain weight and spend hours each day training, more often than not rolling around on a mat soaked with years of sweat. There's nowhere to hide in competition, no teammates to play off or coaching schemes to gain an advantage. It's a one-on-one showdown where the victor must physically dominate a competitor.

And the best of them have been doing this most of their lives. These are people who wear cauliflower ear as a point of pride.

"If, say, you've been doing this from childhood to college, you're not normal," said Grand Island senior Adam Daghestani. "Cutting weight and all this, you're not a normal person. I think most wrestlers at the college level are not normal people. And I like that. Be different."

These are tough, competitive people. They seek out the same. And right now, local stars are finding just that at the University at Buffalo.

Daghestani and Niagara Wheatfield senior Justin McDougald will join McDougald's older brother, Warren, on the Bulls next season under head coach John Stutzman, who helped former North Tonawanda star Troy Keller make his second NCAA tournament this winter before the coronavirus outbreak forced a halt to competition.

"I say this all the time: Not everybody's for me," Stutzman said. "And that's being positive about it. I run a really tight ship and a really structured program, and the kids who buy in have a lot of success."

Kids like Keller, who won a junior college national championship in 2018 at Niagara County Community College before joining the Bulls. He went on to capture two Mid-American Conference championships at UB, becoming "one of the best in program history in just a two-year span," according to Stutzman.

He'll remain with the program as a student assistant as he finishes up a degree in environmental studies.

"I think you definitely look for a tough coach because you want someone to push yourself," Keller said. "Some people might think it's crazy to have a coach who's hard on you, but ... you want that challenge."

Stutzman's disciplined program was a huge draw for Justin McDougald, who is coming off a state championship at 138 pounds.

McDougald recognized his parents' roles in keeping him on a regiment that led to five state tournament appearances and that title. Why mess with success?

"It's like having a parent everywhere on top of you," he said. "When I'm at home, my parents are on top of me. When I leave for college, he'll be on top of me. It kind of keeps me on a strict path."

It also helped that both McDougald brothers and Keller had relationships with Stutzman before the recruiting process. UB wrestling is a partner of the Cobra Wrestling Academy, which is run by NCCC coach Keith Maute. All three had taken part in travel tournaments through Cobra in previous summers.

"We always had a good relationship ever since we were little kids," Warren McDougald said. "I guess that relationship just got a little better when joined the team and her heard I wanted to be on UB."

Warren redshirted his first season with the Bulls. He called his first season "pretty dope" after building relationships with new coaches and teammates and working on his game.

He's excited to become teammates with his brother again and thinks it can lift both of them to new heights.

"I always wanted him on my team. Plus, having friends and everything on the team is good and all, but having a competition with your brother, that's totally different," Warren said.

Despite competing at the team level during high school, Daghestani is a close friend of the McDougalds. They grew up wrestling together with the Niagara Falls Power Cats, and with as much time as they spent attending the same tournaments, they were bound to get to know each other.

Daghestani, Justin McDougald and the latter's cousin, Niagara Falls' Willie McDougald, took their official visits to UB together, getting to know the program over the course of two days. While Willie ultimately picked Oklahoma, the other two were sold immediately on becoming Bulls.

Teaming up together, and with Warren, is a huge bonus.

"I think it's going to be great because we got along so well not being on the same team, it's going to be even better now that we're teammates," Daghestani said. 

Stutzman has a strong respect for Section VI wrestling and knows recruiting locally is key to his program's success.

Next season, he'll have three Niagara Frontier League products chasing a standard set by a fourth.

"The biggest challenge they'll face is the way we work out," Keller said. "You have to push yourself in every workout. In high school, you can have some easy days and relax kind of, but with the college setting, you have to have 100% in compete days. If you have a bad day, you're going to get beat up. There's no day to relax in college.

"They're all competitive, so I think they can definitely prosper in this setting."

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