CMU wrestling discusses if sport is team or individual

The Central Michigan wrestling team believes the sport can be both individual and team oriented. 

CMU has opened this season 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Twenty-two of the 27 wrestlers on the Chippewas' roster have winning records with juniors Colin Heffernan and CJ Brucki leading the way with 22 wins each, followed by 21 from sophomore Justin Oliver.

Though the Chippewas have begun the season with a winning record as a team, Heffernan said he knows his individual performance is just as important as how the team performs. 

"You can't blame other people for your wins or losses," he said. 

In most sports, teammate success is coveted. In some wrestling meets, however, there are no team scores, which means wrestlers compete for themselves because the results will have no impact on the team. 

During tournaments, wrestlers compete for the team, but their individual performances determine if they will move on to the conference or NCAA Championships. 

Wrestlers may even come up against one of their teammates in certain tournaments if both wrestle well. For some wrestlers, that can be both a good and bad thing. 

"It can definitely be frustrating because you practice with them and they know what you are going to do," Oliver said. "It kind of loses a bit of an excitement factor because the match doesn't flow as it usually should. It adds pressure because they are on your team."

In dual meets, college wrestlers rely on their teammates to score points for their team to win. The only thing the individual wrestlers can control is their own match, since dual meets are scored by points per win by decision, major decision, fall or technical fall. 

When the athlete steps onto the mat during a dual meet, they go toe-to-toe with another individual as their teammates cheer them on. 

Oliver — who earned All-American honors during his freshman year — said his take on how wrestling should be viewed has stayed consistent. 

"As far as I have developed from wrestling, it is an individual sport with a team scoring system," he said. "When you step out on the mat, it’s you against your opponent. It’s one versus one. It's not like we are all out there wrestling each other at the same time."

The Davison native said he likes that wrestling is a somewhat individual sport because it is all on his shoulders and he can control his own result. 

Oliver said the sport can be viewed as a team sport by what happens behind the scenes. Behind closed doors, wrestlers push themselves and their teammates to train and work hard. 

"In practice, obviously you need teammates to be able to help you work out and help you get better," he said. 

Heffernan said the team aspect of the sport is bigger than most people would imagine. 

"When you are in the (training) room, you have to have a team that is helping you get better and helping them get better," said Heffernan. "People come to the meet and see individuals wrestling each other, but they don't understand how a team that is all going in the right direction is so important."

Heffernan said to succeed in wrestling, wrestlers must have a good coach, good workout partners and be in the right environment. That's where the team aspect comes into play. 

CMU head coach Tom Borrelli said he sees wrestling as both individual and team specific as well, depending on the time of the season. 

"I know when you get to the national tournament, it's more of an individual sport in the sense that you score points for your team as an individual based on you advancing in your bracket," he said. "During the season, we wrestle more dual meets than tournaments so it is more team oriented."

The MAC Championships begin on March 4 followed by the NCAA Championships which begins March 16. 

Whether CMU will be the MAC team champions and the team will comprise individual champions is yet to be decided.