Freshman Oliver earns All-American honors for CMU wrestling

The Central Michigan wrestling team has its first All-American since the 2013 season.

Freshman Justin Oliver has advanced to the third day at the NCAA Championships and earned All-American honors at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Oliver started day two of the tournament in the quarterfinals, but lost to No. 1 seed Zain Retherford of Penn State by pinfall. After falling to the consolation bracket, the freshman beat Mitch Finesilver of Duke in a 6-5 decision to secure a spot in the top eight of the 149-pound weight class. 

Oliver then faced Mid-American Conference foe Mike DePalma of Kent State, who Oliver lost to in the MAC Championship finals. DePalma won an 8-6 decision.

“It feels pretty surreal,” Oliver said. “Putting in all the work that I did, but wrestling at Davison (High School) and having a few champions come out of there and with all the All-Americans that have come through Central Michigan, I feel like it’s a little expected.”

Oliver will have one last match on Saturday morning for seventh place. He will go against Geordan Martinez of Boise State, who beat him 10-5 at the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1. For Oliver, the match means a more than a seventh place finish.

“I’m looking for a little bit of revenge,” Oliver said. “I lost to him earlier in the year and I’m looking for some revenge and to win my last match of the year and get some momentum going into next year.”

While Oliver had success at the championships, CMU’s other competitors did not fare as well. All of the five other Chippewas that won one of two matches on Thursday lost their consolation matches Friday and were eliminated from the tournament.

Seniors Mike Ottinger (174) and Luke Smith (157) both finished 1-2 at the tournament to end their careers, while senior Zach Horan finished 0-1 in his final championships and had to exit due to a head injury he sustained. Junior Corey Keener (133) finished 1-2 in his second appearance at nationals, while sophomores Brent Fleetwood (125) and Jordan Ellingwood (184) both finished 1-2 in their first appearances.

Head Coach Tom Borrelli said he plans to talk to his team Saturday morning.

“I haven’t gotten a chance to have a team meeting yet, but I’m going to talk with those guys in the morning and go from there,” he said.  

While the team only has one wrestler remaining in the 2015-16 season, Borrelli knows the importance of the last match and how much it means to the program.

“You're fighting for odd numbers in this sport. Justin is currently fighting for seventh,” Borrelli said. "He’s the first All-American we’ve had in two years. Last year was the first year in seven (seasons) we hadn’t had one.”

Central Michigan sits in 35th place in the national tournament team standings with nine points.