CMU wrestling takes down Wisconsin in home finale

The fans at McGurik Arena went home happy as the Central Michigan wrestling team won its final home meet of the season 18-11 against the Wisconsin Badgers.

“I thought we wrestled pretty good,” said Head Coach Tom Borrelli. “I felt like at a few weight classes we could have scored more points and been a little more aggressive, but sometimes the person you’re wrestling has something to do with that.”

No. 19 Central Michigan (10-5, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) jumped on Wisconsin (3-8, 2-6, Big Ten) early, winning the first two matches and going up 6-0.

After Wisconsin responded by winning the next three to go up 9-6, CMU’s veterans stepped up and quickly regained the momentum for the Chippewas.

Seniors Zach Horan (141-pound weight class), Luke Smith (157) and Mike Ottinger (174) all won their final matches at McGuirk Arena. 

“They’ve been starters for four years, so they’ve won a lot of matches here,” Borrelli said. “They’ve done a lot of good things for the athletic department and been good representatives for the athletic department.”

But it wasn’t just the veteran wrestlers who stepped up. Redshirt freshman Justin Oliver (149) defeated Andrew Crone 9-4 and received a standing ovation from the crowd as he got a last second takedown to open up the score. Oliver has won 10 straight matches, and that streak has earned him the No. 9 ranking in the 149-pound weight class.

“Growing up looking at college rankings, even looking at high school rankings was pretty cool,” Oliver said. “Realizing I was ranked was pretty awesome, but I’m obviously looking to be at the top of the podium in the end and the rankings obviously aren’t going to show that.”

Oliver took over for sophomore Colin Heffernan, who went down with an injury at the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 21. At the time, Heffernan was ranked 13th in the class and Oliver was unranked and had only five matches under his belt. Since then, the two have seemingly changed roles as Heffernan now cheers on his younger teammate.

“Colin and I have a pretty good relationship,” Oliver said. “For the most part, if I’m going against a kid he’s wrestled before, he’ll definitely give me little pointers and advice on what their tendencies are.”

Sophomore Brent Fleetwood returned to the mats for the first time since injuring his foot at Northern Iowa on Jan. 19. The 125-pounder lost to Johnny Jimenez 7-2, but Borrelli knows this will only help Fleetwood and the team going forward.

“I was happy to get Brent back out there. We needed him on the mat. Even though he didn’t win, we needed to get him going for the MAC Tournament,” Borrelli said. “I know he’s not happy with the way he wrestled, but you can’t take three weeks off with an injury and expect to be the same guy. It takes a little while.”

It was the third time the Chippewas faced a Big Ten opponent this season, going 3-1 against their Midwest counterparts. CMU blanked Michigan State 33-0 in early December and lost 22-12 to Michigan on Jan. 22.

Central Michigan will finish their regular season Sunday at Old Dominion. The meet is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

184: Jordan Ellingwood (CMU) dec. Ryan Christensen, 4-1

197: Jason Lewis (CMU) dec. Nick Veling, 7-3

285: Brock Horwath (UW) dec. Newton Smerchek, 2-1

125: Johnny Jimenez (UW) dec. Brent Fleetwood, 7-2

133: No. 12 Ryan Taylor (UW) dec. Corey Keener, 9-6

141: No. 14 Zach Horan (CMU) dec. Gabriel Grahek, 4-2

149: No. 9 Justin Oliver (CMU) dec. Andrew Crone, 9-4

157: No. 16 Luke Smith (CMU) dec. TJ Ruschell, 5-3

165: Rylan Lubeck (UW) dec. Jordan Atienza, 11-9

174: No. 8 Mike Ottinger (CMU) dec. No. 18 Ricky Robertson, 6-3