Jordan Atienza prepares to wrap up wrestling career at CMU


Jordan Atienza poses for a portrait on Nov. 28 in the Wrestling Gym

Applause filled McGuirk Arena as Central Michigan wrestling scored a key victory in a dual meet against Ohio on Feb. 3.

At the epicenter of that applause was Jordan Atienza. 

Atienza, the lone senior for the Chippewas, picked up a 7-2 decision victory over Ohio's Derek Walker. It was one of the last matches Atienza will participate in as a Chippewa.

CMU has its final dual of the regular season Feb. 24 against Purdue. It will serve as Atienza's Senior Day.

Atienza said that he is ready to wrestle against the Boilermakers but not quite ready his Senior Day. 

Following the regular season, Atienza will partake in the Mid-American Conference Championships. The end goal for him in 2019 is to make it to the NCAA Championships.

"I just don't want to be done," Atienza said. "I've been thinking about it more and more lately. I was wrestling in practice on Tuesday and I was beating up on a teammate pretty bad, whooping him and, in my head, I'm like, 'this is kind of what I'm best at, when is this ever going to be useful again?'" 

He then joked that he was going to "miss beating people up" on the mat.

Atienza has bruised countless opponents and owns an 81-53 record in his career for the Chippewas. He qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time last season. 

The Livonia native has experienced the highs and lows that many Division I athletes experience over their college career. There were times he wanted to quit, and there was a moment that almost ended his career.

Atienza was wrestling against Eastern Michigan's Derek Hillman at the 2018 Mid-American Conference Championships at McGuirk Arena.

Hillman had a grip on Atienza's right wrist and forced it wide. The pressure on his right shoulder was substantial, so much so that it dislocated his shoulder, tore a labrum. Atienza was left with partial tears in his pectoral muscles and biceps.

Despite the significant injuries, Atienza's motivation brought him to the NCAA Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. While he knew his chances of victory were not as likely, just being in the tournament created a career-high moment.

"I remember my first match being on the mat and just looking around, seeing all the lights and just smiling," Atienza said. "I couldn't help but smile so big, I kind of felt like 'I made it,' so to speak."

At the NCAA Championships last season, he was pinned twice in the two matches he participated in. 

This year, however, Atienza wants to redeem himself when the national tournament takes place March 21-23 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

"I want to go back this year," Atienza said. "I want to be an All-American at nationals. I was wrestling up a weight class last year and coming off a redshirt year. I wasn't positive on what kind of year I expected. I ended up having a good year."

In the offseason, Atienza had surgery and was behind on his conditioning to start the campaign. But he worked hard at conditioning his body for the tough season. Being the only senior, he's the leader.

Atienza is the only one remaining from a 13-man freshman class. Borrelli said his group sticks together – because of Atienza's leadership and experience. 

“He’s a fifth-year senior that’s been through a lot, he’s seen a lot of teams that haven’t been as united as we would like our teams to be,” Borrelli said. 

An everlasting image implemented in Atienza's head is Borrelli's chipper demeanor before the team runs at 6 a.m.

"Those were the times he was in the best mood," Atienza said. "When we were about to do something hard so he would always try to joke with us and try to get us to not be pissed off." 

As for what will be useful to him in his life after wrestling, Atienza said that Borrelli has taught him what he needs to know about being a real man and, someday, a good father. 

The biggest key that Borrelli instilled in him – do it the hard way.

"Your end goal is to be the best person you can be," Atienza said. "So you can be the man of your family and the man at your job. Because there's life after wrestling."