Nine wrestlers to compete at NCAA Championships
The 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships will feature nine Central Michigan wrestlers this weekend — the second most in school history.
For head coach Tom Borelli, it’s a step in the right direction for the program.
“We’re getting the right kids in here that want to do well in the national tournament,” Borelli said. “They want to represent the school the right way.”
After coming off a 9-3 regular season and a third-place finish in the MAC, Borrelli is happy with how the season has unfolded so far.
“We had a few slipups,” Borelli said. “I don’t think in any competition we have been out classed. That will bode well for us in nationals.”
Junior Brent Fleetwood will face the top seed in the 125-pounds weight class Thomas Gilman. Senior Corey Keener (133) will matchup with the six seeded Dom Forys from Pittsburgh. Freshman Mason Smith (141) will face the five seed Anthony Ashnault from Rutgers.
Sophomore Justin Oliver is the only returning All-American from last season. He draws the nine seed and will face Eric Barone in the first round. His goal for this year is simple.
“I want to be a national champion,” Oliver said. “Worst case scenario in my mind (is) I’ll become an All-American.”
Coming off a 29-7 record and a second-place finish in the MAC tournament junior Colin Heffernan is ready for the national tournament along with the rest of the team. He drew the 11 seed at 157 pounds and will face Taleb Rahmani of Pittsburgh.
Heffernan believes that all nine wrestlers are on the same page.
“We want to be as high as we can as a team,” Heffernan said. “Top five, bringing home a trophy. I think we all have the same expectations. We all have goals of being national champion or All American. If we have nine guys (who) are doing that, we can win the tournament.”
Juniors CJ Brucki (174) and Jordan Ellingwood (184) each drew 16 seeds. Brucki will face Connor Bass from Duke while Ellingwood will face CJ Lafragola of Brown.
Senior Austin Severn (197) will face Steban Cervantes from Navy. Junior Newton Smerchek (HWT) will face 16 seeded Garrett Ryan from Columbia.
If Severn and Smerchek get first round-wins they will both face the top seeds in their weight class. Severn would see Missouri’s J’den Cox, who won bronze in the 2016 Olympics, owns a 9-1 major decision over Severn this season. Smerchek could potentially see Kyle Snyder of Ohio State, the top-seeded heavyweight and reigning gold medalist.
Borrelli expects the nine individuals to compete hard and represent themselves and CMU the right way.
“If they do that they will be very successful,” Borelli said.