Three to wrestle for championships, Atienza injured, Oliver pinned
Day one of the 2018 Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships has been unexpected for No. 20 Central Michigan.
CMU currently sits in third place with 98.5, trailing second place Eastern Michigan (100.5 points) and first place No. 3 Missouri (134.5 points).
Junior Justin Oliver (149-pound) looked poised to top his 2017 third-place finish. He had Northern Illinois' Nolan Baker (1-8 entering Saturday) on the mat and cradled, earning near fall points and opening a 16-4 lead.
Then everything went wrong for the Davison native.
Brown reversed Oliver's cradle, leaving the No. 4 ranked 149-pound wrestler scrambling to keep his shoulders off the mat until the referee's hand thunderously hit the mat, leaving McGuirk Arena in a frenzy.
Oliver will compete for fifth-place on Sunday.
Three contenders remain
Senior CJ Brucki (174), Sophomore Mason Smith (141) and redshirt freshman Matt Stencel (285) will compete for first-place finishes on Sunday. All three clinched automatic births to Cleveland for the 2018 NCAA Championships later this month.
Brucki defeated Ohio’s Arsen Ashughyan 4-1 in the quarterfinals and Old Dominion‘s Seldon Wright via 12-2 major decision. Brucki will face Missouri's Daniel Lewis in the 174-pound finals Sunday afternoon.
Smith continued his stellar sophomore campaign with a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over Buffalo’s Jason Estevez and a 5-4 victory over EMU's Sa’Derian Perry in the semifinals.
Smith will face Missouri's Jaydin Eirman on Sunday for the 141-pound title. Eirman defeated Smith 6-0 during their previous showdown in McGuirk Arena on Jan. 19.
Redshirt freshman Matt Stencel will continue his historic debut season with a second clash with EMU's Gage Hutchinson in Sunday's finals. Stencel pinned Hutchinson in their last matchup in Feb.
Stencel pinned Kent State's Stephen Sugglio at the 1:06 mark, avenging his second period pinfall loss to the Golden Flashes heavyweight in their last matchup. Stencel defeated top-seeded Jake Gunning from Buffalo in sudden victory.
Four Chippewas will wrestle for third place Sunday.
Redshirt freshman Drew Hildebrandt (125) defeated Missouri's Barlow McGhee 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals, but dropped his semi-finals bout to top-seeded Michael McGee 7-3.
Senior Colin Heffernan (157) defeated Ohio's Cullen Cummings via 12-3 major decision in the quarterfinals.
The Cleveland, Ohio native's semi-final's matchup pitted him against reigning MAC champion and No. 4 ranked 157-pound wrestler Joey Lavallee from Missouri. Lavallee would earn a 7-5 victory over Heffernan as a wave of yelling, displeased Chippewa fans made their voices heard as Lavallee’s hand was raised.
Heffernan will face ODU's Larry Early for third place on Sunday, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in Heffernan's hometown.
Sophomore Logan Parks (165) went 1-1 on Saturday. He pinned Northern Illinois' Andrew Scott at the 2:39 mark in his quarterfinal match. Parks fell short of earning a place in the championship match with a 3-2 loss to EMU's Zac Carson in sudden victory.
Senior Jordan Ellingwood (184) fell short in search for his second MAC title. Ellingwood defeated Hunter Yeargen from Ohio 3-0 in the quarterfinals. The CMU senior would drop his semifinal matchup for the second consecutive season, suffering a 3-1 sudden victory defeat to EMU's Kayne MacCallum.
Redshirt freshman Dresden Simon (133) will compete for fifth place Sunday.
The Dansville native dropped his opening bout to second-seed Cameron Kelly from Ohio via 19-0 technical fall. Simon bounced back with an 8-3 victory over ODU's Caleb Richardson.
Junior Jordan Atienza (197) was one match away from earning a spot in Sunday's 197 pound championship match. Less than a minute into the match Atienza landed awkwardly to the mat suffering an apparent upper body injury.
No information on the severity of his injury was provided to Central Michigan Life.
He defeated ODU's Noah Bushman via 17-1 technical fall earlier in the day to advance to the semifinals.
Day two of the 2018 MAC Wrestling Championships starts at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at McGuirk Arena. Sunday's action can be seen on ESPN3.