Familiar feat: Hildebrandt, Simon, Stencel clean up at MAC championships
Familiar feats for familiar faces.
Drew Hildebrandt, Dresden Simon and Matt Stencel — all seniors for CMU's wrestling team — won Mid-American Conference championships in the 125, 141 and 285-pound weight classes for the second year in a row.
Stencel's achievement was historic as he became the ninth wrestler in MAC history to win four individual championships when he defeated Rider's Ethan Laird in the 285-pound championship Saturday at Care Insurance Arena in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Ranked fourth nationally, Stencel joins Wynn Michalak and Ben Bennett as the only three Chippewas to win four MAC titles.
"It was extremely hard this year (for Stencel)," CMU coach Tom Borrelli said. "That was the toughest weight class in the conference, I thought, by far. You had two top-10 guys – plus him – and I think eight of the guys in that weight class are ranked in the top 33.
"Just to navigate that this year, there was a lot of pressure on him; he didn't act like it, he didn't wrestle like it, but anytime you've got a target on your back like that it isn't easy."
Hildebrandt (125) and Simon (141) won their classes for a second year in a row. Hildebrandt defeated Missouri's Noah Surtin 6-1 in the 125 championship and Simon beat Rider's McKenzie Bell 12-5 to seal the 141 title.
CMU's champions — Hildebrandt, Simon and Stencel — all qualified automatically for the NCAA Championships. A fourth teammate, redshirt freshman Johnny Lovett (157) placed third and qualified for nationals.
Lovett lost to Jarrett Jacques of Missouri in the semifinals at 157, after defeating Buffalo's Michael Petite, Lovett earned a 10-2 major decision over Edinboro's Peter Pappas to clinch a spot in St. Louis.
Fight to the end
CMU won all of its 10 matches in the final session. In all, the Chippewas earned three first place, two third place and five seventh place finishes.
Each of the wins — taking place simultaneously on adjoining mats — propelled the No. 21-ranked Chippewas past Rider to second place in the team standings with 129.0.
"It would have been easy for our guys to get real down on themselves and just kind of fold up, but they didn't," Borrelli said. "We came back and we won every placing match that we had. That just shows a lot of resilience."
Missouri won the team competition for the ninth year in a row with a score of 188.5.
CMU's four national qualifiers are set to compete in the NCAA Championships from March 18-20 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri.