Wrestling will send eight of its wrestlers to Des Moines, Iowa, for the 2013 NCAA Division 1 wrestling tournament beginning Thursday.
Senior 184-pounder Ben Bennett leads the pack with a No. 2 seed and will receive a first-round bye after an undefeated season and the second Chippewa ever to win four-straight Mid-American Conference titles.
Bennett will look to continue his accomplishments, four MAC championships and his 116 wins is sixth all-time at CMU, with an NCAA championship.
“I got a couple good wins against great opponents in the MAC tournament,” Bennett said. “But, to me, it’s just another step in accomplishing my goal. I feel great right now, healthy and strong.”
Fellow seniors 133-pounder Scotti Sentes and heavyweight Jarod Trice both received No. 10 seeds in their respective weight classes. Sentes, in the 133 championships, will have a first-round match against Illinois’ Daryl Thomas.
Trice will be wrestling in the heavyweight championships against Odie Delaney of the Citadel after finishing the season with 20-plus wins, finishing the year 22-4.
Senior 125-pounder Christian Cullinan will have the toughest first round of the seniors with a match up against No. 12 Tyler Cox of Wyoming in the 125-pound championships. However, Cullinan finished the year strong with more than 20 wins. Rounding out the seniors, 149-pounder Donnie Corby will take on Alexander Richardson of Old Dominion.
“I think the guys will be able to relax a little bit more,” said head coach Tom Borrelli. “There is not as much stress I feel in the NCAA tournament. They will be able to enjoy the competition more now.”
Redshirt freshman Luke Smith will take on Josh Demas of Oklahoma State University in the first round of the 157-pound championships.
Going up the weight ladder, sophomore 165-pounder Mike Ottinger will face North Carolina’s John Staudenmayer in the first round after claiming his second-straight MAC title.
Last, but not least, junior 174-pounder Craig Kelliher will be on the mat against Leroy Munster of Northwestern University.
The Chippewas are going into nationals with a lot of confidence after a second-place finish in the MAC championships and finishing the regular-season on a 10-dual winning streak that dates back to January.
“It is a different feeling once you walk into the arena,” Bennett said. “But I try to approach the match like any other match of the season.”
CMU’s 11-year reign as MAC championships was broken by MAC newcomer Missouri, but it still finished the regular season with an undefeated record.
It will now face some unfamiliar faces in the NCAA tournament but have great senior leadership, led by Bennett, who placed sixth at least year’s NCAA tournament.