One MAC Champion, no All-Americans highlight wrestling season

Cleveland, Ohio senior Colin Heffernan picks up Missouri's Joseph Lavallee in the semi-finals of the MAC Championship on Mar. 3 in McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan wrestling only named one Mid-American Conference Champion in the 2017-18 season — Matt Stencel. 

Stencel, who was wrestling in his first season as a redshirt freshman, was the only Chippewa to earn MAC Champion honors. He is CMU's first MAC Champion since Jordan Ellingwood in 2016. The Chippewas did not have any All-Americans in the NCAA Tournament. 

"I think he was kind of upset they seeded him fifth," said head coach Tom Borrelli following Stencel's MAC title victory. "He was the highest ranked (285-pound wrestler) entering the tournament in the coaches polls. I think it motivated him."

Originally, the heavyweight starting spot was expected to go to reigning NCAA qualifier Newton Smerchek, who started at the position in the 2016-17 season. Stencel took his starting spot and became CMU's lone champion.  

As a team, the Chippewas finished 8-6 overall, finishing 5-2 in MAC action. CMU finished seventh at the 2017 Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and third at the 2017 Ken Kraft Midlands Invitational.

The Chippewas finished second in the 2018 MAC Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

CMU compiled a 1-4 record against other Top 25 teams. The only Top 25 team CMU beat was Purdue, meanwhile, the Chippewas lost to Virginia Tech, South Dakota State, Missouri and Michigan. 

"Our season overall was pretty successful, finishing runner-up in the conference, qualifying seven guys to nationals" Borrelli said. "But, we went through a lot of injuries, some adversity, those things are all positives. If he hadn't had some of those injuries I feel like we would've had a better season, but it is what it is."

Two of the Top 25 losses came without senior 157-pound wrestler Colin Heffernan. The Cleveland native sustained a shoulder injury during the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, which sidelined him for six weeks. 

Heffernan was ranked in the Top 15 of 157-pound wrestlers before the injury. After letting his shoulder heal, he finished third in the MAC Tournament in McGuirk Arena. In his hometown, Heffernan lost two matches in the 2018 NCAA Championships.

Junior Justin Oliver won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in the 149-pound weight class.  Oliver suffered an injury to his right knee during the 3-1 loss to No. 11 Grant Leeth of Missouri — placing him on the shelf for three weeks. 

Oliver finished 25-5, placing fourth in the 2018 MAC Championships and one win away from earning All-American honors for the second time in three seasons. He also finished first at the 2017 Michigan State Open and second at the 2017 Ken Kraft Midlands Invitational.

Sophomore Mason Smith, someone who Borrelli praised during the season, finished with a team-best 31-5 record.

Smith finished first in the 2017 Ken Kraft Midlands Classic in the 141-pound weight class, while CMU placed third. He was ranked as high as No. 9 during the season. He won one of three matches in the NCAA Championships. 

Seniors CJ Brucki (174) and Jordan Ellingwood (184) each qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second and third time respectively. Brucki finished 23-11 with one pin, three technical falls and six major decisions. Ellingwood finished 25-10 with three pins and nine major decisions.

Both were ranked as high as No. 14 during the season, falling short of earning All-American honors in their CMU careers. 

The Chippewas return seven wrestlers for the 2018-19 season, including Oliver, Smith, Stencel, junior Jordan Atienza, sophomore Logan Parks, and redshirt freshman Drew Hildebrandt and Dresden Simon.