Ellingwood wins 184-pound title, seven qualify for Nationals as CMU wrestling finishes second at MAC Tournament

Ypsilanti   After winning its final three meets of the regular season, the Central Michigan wrestling team came away with a second-place finish at the Mid-American Conference Tournament, where seven wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Tournament on March 19.

The Chippewas finished with 93.5 points overall, behind only Missouri in the nine-team field.

Seniors Zach Horan (141-pound weight class) and Luke Smith (157) both finished in fourth place in their classes, while sophomore Brent Fleetwood (125) finished in third. Senior Mike Ottinger (174), junior Corey Keener and freshman Justin Oliver (149) all made it to the championship round, but fell to second place.

Team Results:

  1. Missouri - 127.5  
  2. Central Michigan - 93.5  
  3. Ohio - 76.0  
  4. Kent State - 75.5  
  5. Northern Iowa - 73.5
  6. Northern Illinois - 65.0
  7. Buffalo - 56.0
  8. Eastern Michigan - 54.5
  9. Old Dominion - 36.5

Sophomore Jordan Ellingwood (184) stepped to the mat as the final hope the Chippewas had for an individual championship, Sunday. Ellingwood — who had already defeated two wrestlers who beat him earlier in the season on Saturday — took control of the match early with a takedown on Jack Dechow of Old Dominion. Ellingwood had the lead throughout, but Dechow had a late takedown of his own to narrow the score to 5-3. When the match reached the closing moments, Ellingwood ended any speculation with a takedown and earned a 7-3 championship victory.

“It feels good (being a MAC Champion). I had nothing to lose out there. Getting a takedown like 20 seconds into the match was nice, I felt in control,” Ellingwood said. “Late in the third period, he kinda went to my game trying to tie me up. All match I had been seeing if I could bait him into a cross-knee pick with an underhook, so I got what I wanted and took him down to his back. He gave me what I wanted.”

Even though the team did not meet their own expectations heading into the Tournament, Head Coach Tom Borrelli says he is proud of how far the team and program has come since last season.

“Taking seven guys to Nationals is nothing to not be happy about,” Borrelli said. “Last year, we only had three qualify,(for Nationals). This year we have seven. Last year, we only had two finalists. This year we had four. I was really happy with the improvement we made.”

While Ellingwood was the only Chippewa to win a championship, Ottinger arguably had one of the most intense matches of the day as he squared off against Missouri’s Blaise Butler. The match went into overtime tied 1-1. In overtime, each wrestler earned an escape off the bottom position to send the match to double overtime. Ottinger had a 3-2 lead late in double OT, but Butler earned an escape to tie it and won the final point off riding time 4-3.

“Mike Ottinger’s match was an unbelievable match," Borrelli said. "He competed his butt off. All year long I’ve been preaching to be aggressive and as long as we are trying to do that, I’m happy.”

Sophomores Colin Heffernan (165) and Newton Smerchek (HWT) also made it to Sunday with a chance to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but they finished in sixth and fifth places, respectively. Heffernan finished one spot away from being in consideration for a spot. After starting the season as a 149-pounder, Heffernan recently was moved to the 165-pound class to make room for Oliver at 149. The MAC was allocated only one bid for the heavyweight class, which goes to the heavyweight champion outright.

The Missouri Tigers won the tournament for a fourth straight season after winning the regular season title for the third time in four years.

“We get caught up in wins and losses all the time, but at the end of the day this is supposed to make you a better person,” Borrelli said. "Anything that happens to you, you have to take the right way. It has to build you up. Otherwise, why are we doing this?”

What’s Next:

The seven CMU wrestlers now have 11 days to prepare for the NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Chippewas only have one national champion in the program’s history and haven’t had an All-American since 2013 when seniors Ben Bennett and Jarod Trice won the honor.