Heffernan suffers shoulder injury at Cliff Keen Invitational

Senior Colin Heffernan wins against Freshman Jake Tucker during match against Michigan State University on Nov. 17 in McGuirk Arena.

A second shoulder injury in three years would mentally derail many college athletes, but for Colin Heffernan, it’s nothing more than a chance to give his body a break. 

The senior suffered a right shoulder separation at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas on Dec. 1. Even with the injury, he is still ranked No. 16 in the nation for the 157-pound weight class. 

“I’ve just got to take it as a positive,” Heffernan said. “Maybe I can give my body a break, my knees a break and my mind a break.” 

A stalwart of the team’s starting lineup, Heffernan led the Chippewas in takedowns while compiling a 30-9 record in 2016. He won the Mid-American Conference Championship and qualified for the NCAA Championship. 

Head coach Tom Borrelli said Heffernan tried to keep wrestling though he knew he was hurt, but the team had to forfeit the match. He expects Heffernan to be out between a month and six weeks. They are waiting on an MRI to ensure all of his ligaments are in place. 

Previous injuries

Heffernan also injured his left shoulder his sophomore year. He missed a few weeks and lost his 149-pound starting spot to then-freshman Justin Oliver. Oliver wasn’t expected to contribute much that season, but went 17-1 while filling in for Heffernan. Borrelli held a “wrestle-off” between the two, and Oliver won. 

“He’s been through it before,” Borrelli said. “Hopefully, it’ll only be a month. As soon as some of the soreness goes down and the swelling goes away we can help him keep his conditioning up.”

Heffernan moved to the 157-pound weight class and still qualified for the NCAA Championships. He said going through a similar injury previously definitely helps his mindset going forward.

“I know what to do to get in shape,” he said. “I know what to do with my mind to stay positive.”

Neither of his collegiate injuries were as bad as one he suffered to his back in high school, according to Heffernan. He sat out six months with a severe back injury, but his previous injuries help his current mental state in dealing with this one. 

Staying in shape

With his right arm in a sling, Heffernan can’t wrestle or work on keeping up his strength. The one thing he can do as he waits to heal is building his cardio. 

Five days after his injury, Heffernan was drenched in sweat with his teammates at practice. He spent a half an hour walking incline on the treadmill, followed by working out on the elliptical and bike machine. 

“I have to makeshift what I can do,” he said. “I’m working on keeping my cardio and conditioning up for right now. It’s going to be a couple weeks before I can get on the mat and get into wrestling shape.”

He doesn’t like having to sit out December because there’s some good competition that can help him during championship hunts in March. Heffernan's working to keep up his conditioning and ability so he won’t lose a step as his senior season comes to an end.

Next man up

“(The injury) changes this a bit and makes things more difficult,” Borrelli said. "But, it's just like any sport.”

CMU travelled to the the Dakotas this past weekend, battling No. 17 South Dakota State Friday and North Dakota State Saturday. They lost both dual meets and now hold a 1-3 record. 

Freshman Blake Montrie stepped up in Heffernan’s absence and dropped both matches.  

Following a few away duals and the Ken Kraft Midlands in Evanston, Ill., they’ll begin Mid-American Conference play against Ohio in Mount Pleasant on Jan. 7. 

According to Borrelli’s estimated time frame, this is around when Heffernan should return, setting him up for the MAC Championships in March – also held at Central Michigan.