Wrestling coach stresses improvement for upcoming season
Coming off a season that featured nine Central Michigan wrestlers in the NCAA Wrestling Championships, head coach Tom Borrelli has nothing but confidence in his veteran team.
“All of our seniors have a really good mindset this year,” said the head coach. “Our returners have all been really improving even from the heights where they were last year.”
Though none of the nine were named All-American, Borrelli, in his 26th year with CMU, said his program is still in good hands as the new season approaches. CMU is ranked No. 17 nationally in the preseason NCAA rankings.
“It sounds kind of cliché, but we want to try to get better all year long – just a little bit each day," Borrelli said. "We’ll let the standings sort itself out. If we focus on (improving), I’m sure we’ll do just fine.”
The team had its annual intrasquad meet on Oct. 27, giving Borrelli a final look at his team before its first meet – the Michigan State Open on Nov. 5.
Four Chippewas made it to the finals Sunday night in East Lansing. Eight wrestlers made it to the semifinals.
Borrelli was pleased with the effort in both meets. The Chippewas have eleven freshmen in all. Though Borelli is not certain any will be starting barring injuries, he is optimistic for the future.
One standout for Borrelli was freshman Collin Lieber (174), who went up against senior veteran C.J. Brucki. Borrelli said the freshman showed a lot of toughness, which is a good sign for things to come for the young student-athlete, he said.
“We’re really high on them,” he said. “I think we have a really good group of freshmen, and we’ve also got great veteran leadership to help them out. I’m excited for another season.”
Five of the teams returners from last season are ranked in the top 20 of their weight classes, according to InterMat.
The highest-ranked Chippewa to start the season is junior Justin Oliver (149), coming in at No. 6. Oliver led the 2016-17 team with 10 falls on his way to finishing second in the Mid-American Conference.
Ranked No. 9 is senior Jordan Ellingwood (184), who finished 24-7 overall and third in the MAC.
Seniors Colin Heffernan (157) and C.J. Brucki (174) are both ranked No. 12 in their respective classes. Last season, both ended second in the MAC with seven wins.
Sophomore Mason Smith (141) – who qualified for the NCAA Championships with a 24-14 overall record in 2016-17 – just cracked the rankings at No. 20.
Also placing in the MAC last year but outside of InterMat’s Top 20 was senior Newton Smerchek (HWT), who placed third.
The team will be without senior Corey Keener (133, ranked No. 15) and Brent Fleetwood (125). Keener transferred to Penn State and Fleetwood transferred to North Dakota State this past offseason.