Heffernan eyes return as wrestling hosts No. 3 Missouri

Fans watch Central Michigan University's wrestling match against the University of Missouri in McGuirk Arena, Sunday, January 17.

Two nationally-ranked top 20 teams will be competing as Central Michigan wrestling hosts the Missouri Tigers in McGuirk Arena on Jan. 19. 

Coming off an empty weekend, the Chippewas climbed to No. 17 while Missouri still rests at No. 3. There are 12 individually ranked wrestlers between the two teams.

The Chippewas (5-3) are undefeated in two home dual meets. The three losses came in early December, and they’ve since won four straight duals. The team placed third at the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships. 

Missouri (14-0) has won the Mid-American Conference Championship each year since 2012-13. 

Missouri's streak follows 14 MAC Championships in 15 seasons won by CMU, dating back to 1998.

CMU head coach Tom Borelli, who was recently elected into the National Coaches Hall of Fame, believes his team is up to the challenge. 

“(We want to) find out if we can compete with a team that’s been a conference (champion) for the last five years,” he said. “We have a big test in front of us but we’d like to think we can compete with them. We’ll find out.”

This will be the first of two meets in three days for CMU, as it will be hosting Buffalo on Jan. 21.

Buffalo (5-5, 2-1 MAC) sits at third in the MAC, behind Missouri (5-0) and CMU (2-0). 

Colin Heffernan’s return

After suffering a shoulder injury early last month, senior Colin Heffernan began practicing last week and aims to return to competition Friday. 

“I’m not 100 percent sure yet,” said Heffernan, ranked No. 14 in the 157 pound weight class. “I made it through (Tuesday and Wednesday), both a couple of pretty tough practices. My shoulder felt good; I’m hoping for Friday.”

Heffernan has been focusing on conditioning in his absence from competition. He said this injury may have been a blessing in disguise because it will offer a second wind. 

Borelli echoed Heffernan’s hopes, saying it will likely be a game-time decision on Friday. 

They’re both confident he’ll suit up on Sunday against Buffalo, however. 

Possibly going against Missouri's No. 4 senior Joey Lavallee, Heffernan admitted it will be a hard match to return after weeks off. 

“We try to treat it like anyone else,” he said. “Obviously it’s a big match, but the key is to not treat it any differently. I’ve wrestled (Lavalle) a few times now, and I’d like to wrestle him again, but sometimes it’s not up to me.

"Whether it's Missouri or Buffalo, you've just got to go out there and grow every match, win or lose."

The Missouri meet will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19 at McGuirk Arena.