Heavyweight Stencel emerges into starting lineup in debut season

Ohio Freshmen Matt Stencel poses for a portrait after wrestling practice Jan 10 McGuirk Arena

Matt Stencel's first wrestling memories include rolling around the living room floor with his brother.

Now, Stencel is wrestling at CMU's nationally ranked program.

Stencel made his Central Michigan wrestling debut in the season's opening dual meet against Michigan State in November. Stencel proved he belonged in the starting lineup by pinning MSU’s Christian Rebottaro just over a minute into the match.

“It was pretty exciting, especially in front of the home crowd,” Stencel said. “I didn’t want it to be a boring match for everybody and everyone that came to watch me wrestle.”

The Oregon, Ohio native currently holds a record of 20-11. He currently leads the team with 11 pinfall victories this season, two away from tying Kevin Vogel (1988-89 season) and Wynn Michalak (2007-08) for No. 10 all-time in a single season.

Stencel earned a fourth-place finish at the 2017 Michigan State Open and the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, second-place at the Eastern Michigan open, and recently earned the No. 20 ranking at 285 pounds.

Stencel was a four-year letter winner at Oregon Clay High School, accumulating a record of 184-18 while winning two state titles and a runner-up. 

Central Michigan was an easy decision for Stencel. His high school coach, Ralph Cubberly, is the father of current CMU assistant Ryan Cubberly.

Stencel often visited CMU during his sophomore year of high school. The heavyweight committed to the Chippewas on Christmas Day in his junior year.

“I liked the coaches, where the program was going. I was excited (to commit),” Stencel said. “I thought coach Borrelli and the rest of the staff could put me over the top and put me to the next level.”

Even with the success Stencel isn’t entirely pleased with his season so far. When asked how he felt his first year was shaping up he said “rough, but expected.”

“I’m working out the bad stuff I do and stuff that doesn’t work, trying to perfect the way I wrestle,” Stencel said. “I try to wrestle aggressive, but smart. I have to get smarter as a wrestler and know how to win a match.”

Stencel finished last season with a 13-9 record while wrestling unattached, earning nine pins and a major decision and finished first in last season’s Alma Open despite a minor ankle injury during the season.

Stencel gives credit for his success to practicing with former NCAA qualifier Newton Smerchek. 

“Being able to work with him every day in the (wrestling) room is huge,” Stencel said. “His style of wrestling is very hard to score (points) on. It’s perfect for me, especially at a young age, to have two years with him.”

Despite not being in the lineup Smerchek is proud of Stencel’s success.

“It can be difficult to not be wrestling as much as I would like to be,” Smerchek said. “My mom told me I should be proud if I’m not on the mat and the other heavyweight wrestler is doing a really good job and beating people while helping him.’”