The eight wrestlers in the NCAA tournament split in Session 1 Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
Three-time All-American senior and second-seeded Ben Bennett 184-pounder would turn the tide for the struggling Chippewas with a win against Tony Dallago of Illinois. Bennett won 7-3 with over a minute of riding time to gain CMU some tournament points.
Bennett is just the third wrestler in program history to be a three-time All–American since Ryan Cunningham in 1998-2000 and then Wynn Michalak in 2005-08.
He now looks to become the only wrestler in program history to be a four-time All-American.
“Biggest thing with Ben is to just make sure he keeps doing the things he does best and to just keep moving on,” said head coach Tom Borrelli.
Of the eight wrestlers, three of them are newcomers to the tournament: Senior Christian Cullinan for the 125-pound championship, junior Craig Kelliher 174-pound championship and redshirt freshman Lucas Smith in the 157-pound championship.
Cullinan was the first Chippewa with a win on the mat in the first round. He was able to get a 7-2 win against Joe DeAngelo of North Carolina State with 1:39 of riding time. Cullinan will match up against No. 4 Nick Megaludis of Penn State in the second round.
Before Cullinans’s first team victory, sophomore Mike Ottinger 165-pounder was the first Chippewa to hit the mats but would lose his first-round match-up against Ryan LeBlanc of Indiana in a close 5-3 match that ended in overtime.
Veteran senior No. 10 Scotti Sentes 133-pounder kept the winning spirit going with a 13-2 major decision victory against Jimmy Morris of Rider, whom Sentes has now beaten three times this year. He will continue to the second round to wrestle Jonathon Morrison of Minnesota.
The Chippewas would hit a rough stretch, however, losing the next three matches. Senior Donnie Corby (149 lbs) had an in-state match-up against Michigan State’s Dan Osterman, which ended with just five seconds left in overtime as Corby was taken down in a 3-1 loss. Corby will now have to wrestle his way back through wrestlebacks.
Luke Smith (157 lbs) was next on the mat for the Chippewas but would fall to No. 7 Jesse Dong of Virginia Tech in 8-0 major decision and join Corby in wrestlebacks. Craig Kelliher (174 lbs) had a tough test against No. 3 Michael Evans of Iowa, who would win 2-0 in the third period.
“I attribute the losses to the opponent Smith had a No. 7 seed and Kelliher No. 3 seed. I don’t think it had anything to do with the environment of the tournament,” Borrelli said. “I expect them to wrestle well in wrestlebacks. They’ll have to win four or five matches to place.”
No. 10 senior heavyweight Jarod Trice was the last Chippewa on the mat. Trice had a first-round match-up against Daniel Miller of Navy, who Trice would beat in a 2-0 decision.
Trice and Sentes look to join teammate Bennett as the fourth and fifth three-time All-Americans in the wrestling program history.
One of the three newcomers was able to pick up a victory, while the other two fight their way through wrestlebacks. Of the five seniors, four earned victories.
The Chippewas were in 16th place with five tournament points at the end of Session 1 Thursday afternoon.