MAC Tournament: Nine Chippewas hope to punch NCAA bids, four in title matches
Ten wrestlers will be crowned champions today as the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Tournament wraps up today in Ypsilanti.
Four Central Michigan wrestlers made the cut to advance to the championship rounds and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. Today's wrestling begins at 1:05 p.m.
Here's a look at what Chippewas could claim a MAC title.
Junior 133-pounder Corey Keener (18-9) came into the tournament as the No. 4 seed, but found his way into the championship round where he will wrestle the No. 7 seed from Northern Illinois, redshirt freshman and Fenton, Michigan native Austin Eicher (16-11).
Eicher won 3-out-of-4 of his MAC matches this season and has a 30-20 career record.
Keener claimed an 11-3 major decision over Eicher on Dec. 3 in a dual meet at Northern Illinois.
Keener has four falls this season and is 6-2 in his conference matches.
Redshirt freshman 149-pounder Justin Oliver (26-4) started the 2015-16 season as the backup to redshirt sophomore Colin Heffernan. However, when Heffernan suffered injuries midway through the season, Oliver took his spot and held onto it.
He now enters Sunday's championship round on a 15-match winning streak. Oliver, who is the second-seeded 149-pounder, has a 6-0 conference record. He will wrestle Kent State's Mike DePalma (20-7).
DePalma is a fifth-year senior who transferred from collegiate wrestling powerhouse Edinboro University and carries a 5-3 conference record. Oliver took a 7-4 decision over DePalma in a tri-meet at Kent State on Feb. 14.
"Justin has been one of the leaders (in riding time and controlling matches)," Borrelli said. "He's really coming on. He listens to us, works hard in practice everyday and he tries to keep scoring points the whole match."
Senior 174-pounder Mike Ottinger (27-5) brings his 8-0 conference record into the finals as the top-seeded wrestler in the tournament.
He has won 13 of his last 14 matches and could claim his third tournament championship of his career against Missouri's Blasie Butler (17-3) on Sunday. Butler is a redshirt senior and the No. 2 seed with five falls and five major decisions this season. Ottinger defeated Butler 3-2 on Jan. 17 at McGuirk Arena.
Junior 184-pounder Jordan Ellingwood (25-12) punched his ticket to the finals with a takedown of top-seeded redshirt sophomore Willie Miklus of Missouri in the final seconds of the match, Saturday.
Miklus pinned Ellingwood in the first round of their regular season match on Jan. 17. The fourth-seeded Ellingwood will compete against No. 2 Jack Dechow of Old Dominion. A redshirt junior, Dechow won 26 consecutive matches a year ago, winning the MAC tournament at 184 pounds. Ellingwood lost to Dechow 4-3 on Feb. 21.
"(Ellingwood) is one of the guys whose been improving all year long — especially during the second semester," Borrelli said. "He's been coming back (after practice) in the evenings to work with (Assistant Head Coach and former CMU four-time 184-pound MAC Champion) Ben Bennett. He's been doing extra things and those things have given him a lot of confidence. He made the sacrifices and paid the price."
The Chippewas (76 points) are in second place, trailing Missouri (103.5 points) by 27.5 points headed into the final day of competition at the Convocation Center. Borrelli said a lot would have to happen for the Chippewas to overcome the Tigers' lead, but said in tournaments like this, anything is possible.
Follow the coverage of the 2016 MAC Wrestling Tournament on CM-Life.com and on Twitter from @CMLifeSports.