Wrestling hosts 2018 MAC Championships March 3

Members of the CMU wrestling team celebrate after redshirt freshman Matt Stencel pins his opponent in the match against Eastern on Feb. 9 in McGuirk Arena.

After an 8-6 regular season, No. 20-ranked Central Michigan wrestling will begin postseason action this weekend in McGuirk Arena.

CMU will host the 2018 Mid-American Conference Championships March 3-4. Competition will start on both days at noon. 

The Chippewas finished second in the MAC this season after winning a tie-breaker over Old Dominion. No. 3 Missouri won its third MAC regular season title. Last season, Northern Iowa won the regular season title and Missouri won the MAC Tournament championship. 

Seedings for weight classes will be announced early this week, including how many wrestlers from each weight class earn automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament March 15-17 in Cleveland.

Borrelli feels there’s a special feeling to this year's tournament for his seniors, but there isn’t much of a difference for him.

“It’s nice to be at home, not having to travel, sleep in your own bed, that type of thing,” Borrelli said. “For (the seniors) I’m sure it’s pretty special.”

Borrelli noted the team has to be on top for its game to earn the 2018 MAC Championship.

“They want to do well, especially the seniors,” Borrelli said. "I’m sure their goal is to win the championship. We have to wrestle a heck of a tournament to do that. We have a very good team.”

Practice leading up to the tournament has been tough, said senior Jordan Ellingwood, a No. 15-ranked 184-pound wrestler.

“We’re making it really tough, especially on the starters, telling the younger guys to make everything harder than it has been all year,” Ellingwood said. 

Seniors aim to cement legacy

Seniors Colin Heffernan (No. 20 at the 157-pound weight class), CJ Brucki (No. 14 at 174) and Ellingwood look to win their first MAC Team Championship in their careers. They want to avoid being the second-straight senior class to never experience winning the title for CMU under Borrelli.

Ellingwood is the only member on the team to earn individual MAC Championship honors, winning the title at the 184-pound weight class during his sophomore season in 2016. 

“We got all our fans coming, it’s at home and I get to sleep in my own bed,” Ellingwood said. “I’ve been waiting for (the MAC Tournament) to be at home for a while."

Brucki debuted in the lineup last season, finishing third at 174 pounds in last season's MAC Tournament while qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Brucki aims for a MAC title this season, but a potential matchup with No. 4-ranked 174-pound wrestler Daniel Lewis likely stands in his way. 

“In wrestling you really have to focus and take it one match at a time, but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the match I was waiting for (and) training for,” Brucki said. 

Lewis knocked off Brucki via major decision in their lone matchup on Jan. 19 in McGuirk Arena.

“There’s a lot of things I didn’t do in (the previous match with Lewis)," Brucki said. "It’s a match I’m looking forward to, but I have to focus and take it one match at a time."

Heffernan was the lone Chippewa to compete in a championship match last season. He fell short in a nail-biting double sudden victory loss to NCAA finalist Joey Lavallee.

“I hope I can get that rematch with him," Heffernan said. "If I do there’s definitely going to be a little bit of fire behind it, but I don’t want to look forward too much to that because I have to take care of business to get there first."

Heffernan’s senior season will be a special one. He will compete for a MAC title in the arena he’s called home for four seasons and potentially earn a bid into the 2018 NCAA Tournament  in his hometown of Cleveland.

“I’m so excited for these opportunities,” Heffernan said. “I don’t know how many times people get their conference tournament at their home school and then go wrestle the NCAA tournament in their hometown. I know I’ll have a good number of fans at the conference tournament rooting me on and even more at (NCAA Tournament)."