Junior Joe Roth spent much of last year as the kick starter at 125 pounds for the wrestling team by winning the first match of the meet 17 of 19 times.
But senior Christian Cullinan filled his role for No. 17 Central Michigan Tuesday night at McGuirk Arena, pinning No. 15 Sean Boyle to aid in the team’s 21-16 victory over No. 13 Michigan.
“That was a huge momentum lift for us,” head coach Tom Borrelli said. “He wants to wrestle. He wants to start. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Cullinan tallied his first points of the match in the third period in an escape to narrow Boyle’s lead to 2-1 with one minute remaining.
An eruption from the 1,879 in attendance ensued after he grabbed a takedown and then a pin at the end of the period to give CMU a 6-0 lead.
Much of the match was not spent standing up but grappling low to the mat.
“The biggest thing that won me the match tonight was my conditioning, which was something I focused on all summer,” Cullinan said.
It was the first win against U-M for CMU since 2008. The Chippewas are now 6-20 all-time against Michigan.
“It’s not easy for us to beat Michigan,” Borrelli said. “So, that’s a big win for Central Michigan University. If we beat them in tiddlywinks, it’s a big win.”
Senior Ben Bennett, attempting to earn a record fourth All-American honor this season, touched the mat after U-M took its first lead of the night, 13-12.
He grabbed Jordan Thomas’ left leg and got a takedown less than 30 seconds into the match.
Then, Bennett pinned Thomas midway through the first period, and CMU retook the lead 18-13.
Seniors Scotti Sentes (No. 2) and Jarod Trice (No. 4) returned to the mat after redshirting last season.
Sentes was in control of his match at 133 pounds, never losing his lead, but failed to break away from Rossi Bruno, winning by decision 8-6 and putting CMU up 9-0.
Trice, with CMU leading 18-16 and fans egging him on, finally got a takedown in the second period against Justin Dozier, and won 4-0.
“He was wrestling to the crowd more than he was wrestling to his abilities,” Borrelli said. “If Jarod can cause any excitement at all, whatsoever, by keeping the match close or by blowing the match out or egging the other coach on, he tends to like that.”
While CMU started seven upperclassmen, redshirt freshman Lucas Smith and Jackson Lewis both wrestled the Wolverines at 157 pounds and 197 pounds, respectively.
While Lewis lost, 157-pound Smith prevailed entering his match with CMU having a 9-6 lead.
Smith beat Michael Carpenter 3-2 with riding time. He started down 2-0 but tied the match 2-2 with an escape later on in the first period and one in the second period.
Sophomore Mike Ottinger (No. 19) started at 165 pounds after being the MAC Champion in his division as a true freshman. Taylor Massa dominated the match for the Wolverines, winning 8-3.
The score was 12-9 going into the 174-pound match between sophomore Anthony Bill and No. 15 Dan Yates.
Yates got a takedown less than a minute into the match and won 12-5 to give Michigan the first lead of the meet, 13-12.
Senior Donnie Corby was moved to 149 pounds this season after spending last year at 157 pounds because Borrelli wanted to utilize his strength.
He lost 3-2 in overtime to Eric Grajales. Corby grabbed his leg to take a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period.
The Chippewas will compete at 9 a.m. on Sunday at the Michigan State Open.