Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Beware an angry Matt Stencel.
Stencel, a Central Michigan redshirt freshman, pinned Eastern Michigan's Gage Hutchison in the first period on Sunday to win the 285-pound title at the Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships at McGuirk Arena.
Stencel's victory, capping a 3-0 tournament run, highlighted the weekend for CMU, which finished second behind powerhouse Missouri in the eight-team field.
Stencel earned a spot in the NCAA Championships which are in two weeks at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. He is one of four CMU wrestlers - Mason Smith (141), CJ Brucki (174) and Colin Heffernan (157) - are the others who punched their ticket for the nationals with their respective performances over the weekend.
Other CMU wrestlers, including Justin Oliver (149) and Jordan Ellingwood (184), will be among those strongly considered for an at-large bid to the NCAA.
Stencel finished off the second-seeded Hutchison in 1:10 one day after he upset top-seed and defending league champion Jake Gunning of Buffalo, 2-1, in overtime. Stencel, who was seeded fifth, opened the tournament with a pin in 1:07 of Kent State's Stephen Suglio, the No. 4 seed.
"I think he was kind upset they seeded him fifth because he was the highest-ranked guy coming into the tournament in the coaches poll," CMU coach Tom Borrelli said of Stencel, who is 28-13 with 14 pins. "He had already (pinned) Hutchison in our dual meet (with Eastern). I don't know how he got seeded fifth. I can't figure that out. I think it motivated him. I think It was a slap in the face to him."
Missouri won seven of the 10 weight classes in capturing its sixth consecutive MAC Championships title with 177 points. The Chippewas were second with 125, followed by Eastern Michigan (120.5), Kent State (98), Ohio (84.5), Buffalo (81), Old Dominion (80), and Northern Illinois (78).
"I'll be honest with you, for us to have won this tournament it would have been a stretch with where Missouri is right now, being the third-ranked team in the country," Borrelli said. "They've got a really good team. For us to win it would have been a stretch, but that's the goal, to be as good as them.
"We were in a dogfight with every team in the conference after that. Eastern had a great tournament and our kids were savvy enough to finish second, so you have to compliment them on that."
CMU's Smith and Brucki both finished runner-up in their respective weight classes. Smith lost on a 24-9 technical fall to Missouri's Jaydin Eierman in the 141-pound final, and Brucki was pinned by the Tigers' Daniel Lewis in the 174 title bout. Eierman is 28-1 on the season and ranked second nationally, while Lewis is 29-0 and ranked third.
Smith, who is ranked 10th, is 31-5; Brucki is 23-11 and ranked 14th. Both Smith and Brucki were seeded No. 2 heading into the MAC Championships.
HEFFERNAN THIRD, QUALIFIES
Heffernan, a senior who was seeded fourth, defeated No. 2-seed Larry Early of Old Dominion, 5-4, in the third-place match at 157 to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
The NCAA berth comes after a wild ride for Heffernan, who is 19-6 and is ranked 20th by InterMat.com.
The Cleveland native missed a good chunk of the season with an injury, then had to scramble to wrestle enough matches to qualify for an RPI rating to help get him to nationals. He lost in a late-season dual at Kent State and then rebounded to upset No. 6-ranked Alec Panteleo in overtime in a dual at Michigan.
He was also forced to enter opens at both Lock Haven and at Edinboro in order to get enough matches under his belt in his quest for the RPI.
"He's been in a heck of a roller coaster since he was hurt," Borrelli said. "This meant a lot to him."
Four other Chippewas wrestled for third place on Sunday and two came away victorious. Drew Hildebrandt defeated Missouri's Barlow McGhee, 4-0, in the third-place match at 125; and Logan Parks topped Isaac Bast of Kent State, 4-2, in overtime, for third at 165.
Hildebrandt wrestled second-place finisher Brock Hudkins of Northern Illinois in a true-second match - the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Championships - but he fell, 3-1, in overtime.
Oliver, the No. 2 seed at 149, dropped an 8-6 overtime decision to Kyle Springer of Eastern Michigan in the third-place match, while Jordan Ellingwood fell in the third-place match at 184 to Missouri's Canten Marriott, 2-1.
While neither Oliver nor Ellingwood earned an automatic qualifying berth to the NCAA, both stand a good chance of earning an at-large bid based on their RPI and status in the coaches rankings. Oliver is ranked fourth nationally and Ellingwood is ranked 15th.
CMU's Dresden Simon finished sixth when he fell on an 11-2 major decision to Alijah Jeffery of Northern Illinois in the fifth-place match.
Chippewa junior Jordan Atienza also finished sixth. Atienza was injured in a semifinal match on Saturday and was forced to medical forfeit that match and his final two. He, like Ellingwood and Oliver, may be in the hunt for an at-large NCAA bid, Borrelli said.