It was a lifelong dream fulfilled.
Senior 133-pounder Joe Roth came to Central Michigan a redshirt freshman and left as an All-American.
Roth capped off his career at CMU placing seventh at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City on Saturday.
“Becoming an All-American is something no one can take away from me,” Roth said. “That’s been a dream and goal of mine since I was a kid. It’s pretty cool to be able to reach that goal.”
He said seeing all his hard work pay off after five years at CMU was the most rewarding.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Roth said. “It’s been a five-year process from when I first came to Central until now. I’ve had my sights on becoming an All-American and its nice to see all that hard work pay off.”
Head coach Tom Borrelli said Roth is one of the best lightweights to ever come through the program.
“He really helped lead us to a conference championship that season,” Borrelli said. “I think he might be only the second All-American we’ve ever had at 133 pounds. When you look at lightweights that have come through our program, he has to be right at the top.”
Roth won his seventh-place match on Saturday over 13-seed Cody Brewer of Oklahoma by 8-6 decision. He was down 4-3 heading into the third period, but recorded an escape and two takedowns in the final period to seal the win, also making it his 100th career victory.
Borrelli said one of the most impressive things about Roth’s performances this weekend was his ability to be competitive in every match.
“Joe wrestled a good tournament all the way around,” he said. “He was seeded 12th and had to beat some people that, on paper, he wasn’t supposed to beat. Even in the two matches he lost, he was really, really competitive.”
Being the 12th seed meant he had to battle higher seeds along the way to finish as an All-American, but Roth said those matches were good tests for him.
“I’m really happy with the way I performed this past weekend,” Roth said. “I think I did well proving myself and becoming an All-American.”
He finished with a 28-9 record in his final season and a career record of 100-37. He is only the second wrestler in program history to become an All-American, while competing in the 133-pound weight class.
Roth is also only the 19th wrestler in program history that has recorded at least 100 career wins.
Being in that rare company means there is a significant legacy left for the younger wrestlers coming in. Roth said he hopes that legacy is positive and helps the program succeed.
“Ultimately, I wanted to make sure the program keeps getting better as a whole,” Roth said. “It was cool to have an opportunity to wrestle for Central Michigan University and wrestle under coach Borrelli and be a Division I athlete. I can’t thank coach Borrelli enough for giving me the opportunity that he has given me.”
His best season came as a sophomore, when he finished 35-9 overall while finishing with a 18-2 dual record. He was also the MAC champion at 125 pounds that season while being named the most outstanding wrestler at the MAC championships.
Borrelli said Roth wasn’t always the most vocal leader, but instead let his talent and actions on the mat speak for themselves.
“Joe was more of a leader by example,”Borrelli said. “He’s a pretty quiet guy and really never tried to stick out too much.”
Teammates at the tournament
Sophomore Lucas Smith came up one win shy of finishing as an All-American.
Sophomore Zach Horan competed in the 141-pound class as the eighth seed. He split his two matches on Thursday, and Friday was his last day of competition as he lost in consolation round three by 6-4 decision.
Senior Mike Ottinger was the 10th seed competing in the 174-pound class. His tournament ended after a disqualification in consolation round three.
Freshman Corey Keener lost two matches in the preliminary matches in the 125-pound division, ending his tournament. He came into the NCAA championships unseeded.