Atienza jumps three weight classes to compete in 2017-18 wrestling season
Four dual meets into the 2017-18 Central Michigan wrestling season, redshirt junior Jordan Atienza is competing in a weight class he never expected.
After a 223-19 record and two individual state titles at Livonia Franklin High School, Atienza had a unique offseason.
Atienza jumped up three weight classes from 165-pounds in his redshirt freshman season to 197-pounds this season.
Atienza finished with a 22-17 overall record in 2015-16. He finished with a 1-5 record in Mid-American Conference duals in the 165-pound weight class.
Even with a winning record, Atienza didn’t see his sophomore season as a success.
“I had a really good first semester. I was 18-4 and then only won four matches the rest of the year,” Atienza said. “I think there was some adjusting to do (at the end of the season), but there were high points and things I learned from. I wouldn’t call it a success.”
Atienza redshirted the 2016-17 season and stayed out of the lineup. He described sitting out after being in the lineup the year before as mentally challenging.
“Those guys are 10 of my best friends,” Atienza said. “Not getting to go on weekend road trips (to meets) and not experience the highs of victory and the lows of defeat with them was hard for me. I was a team player and did everything the team asked me to do.”
Atienza wrestled unattached in the 2016-17 season, meaning he could participate in tournaments that did not keep team scores. He finished with a 14-4 record with four pins, four technical falls, and a major decision at the 174-pound weight class.
He finished first at the 2017 Alma Open and third at the Michigan State Open, falling only to national champion Mark Hall from Penn State.
Atienza questioned where he would fit in the lineup during the 2017 offseason after redshirting.
“I started talking with (senior) CJ Brucki and seeing if he was going to drop a weight since he was coming in low (to reach 174 pounds),” Atienza said. “The original plan was for (Brucki) to drop (to 165 pounds) and I was going to stay (at 174).”
The plan did not work, but other options were still open.
“He’s a natural 184-pounder right now, but (Jordan) Ellingwood is there right now,” said head coach Tom Borrelli. “We don’t have a lot of depth at (197 pounds). We have some youth there we’re happy about.”
Brucki was a 2017 NCAA qualifier currently ranked No. 16 and Ellingwood is a No. 8 ranked two-time NCAA qualifier and 2016 MAC Champion at the 184-pound weight class.
Atienza began to add more than 20 pounds. He spent the summer finding consistency with his sleep schedule and diet, as well as finding a new approach toward working out.
“I wouldn’t say (my lifting schedule) has changed, but I’ve approached it with a different intensity. I'm making sure I’m exhausting my muscles,” Atienza said. “Previously, I was lifting to maintain (weight) and make sure I didn’t lift too hard and be sore. Now, I go all out with every lift. I don’t care if I’m sore because that means I’m gaining muscle.”
Atienza said his diet featured lots of potatoes, steak, milk, protein shakes, fruit and yogurt.
During this season, Atienza currently sits at 8-3 at the 197-pound weight class.
“I think 197 was a good move for him,” Borrelli said. “It’s good for the team, and he’s got a lot of speed for a big guy. I think that speed bothers wrestlers in heavier weight classes.”
Atienza firmly believes he can be one of the top wrestlers in the nation.
“I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t be a national champion,” Atienza said. “I’m not there yet, but I don’t think anyone on our team is. If I make the right adjustments and take the right attitude in training every day, I can do it.”