photo courtesy of Richard Immel
For the past few months, we at TOM have previewed dozens of teams and explored their possible 2019-20 lineups. This week we have a treat as Central Michigan alum and one half of the excellent wrestling podcast, Bloodround, Kevin Claunch has volunteered to give us a look at the Chippewa team.
Fire Up Chips. I really can’t think of a better way to begin this. I’ve been saying it since 2003, when I went to CMU intending to walk on to their wrestling team. I remember specifically working with my roommate to learn their fight song in the dorms, meeting the other wrestlers on the team, and immediately had a strong sense of pride and belonging to that program and the school. My goal of making the team didn’t come to fruition, as I had hoped, but in the time I was there, I watched CMU have tremendous success with the Sinnott twins, Wynn Michalak, Bubba Gritter, all All Americans and actual recruits that I tried to walk on with. Other members of the teams while I was there include Lightning Luke Smith, Mitch Hancock, David Bolyard, Jason Borrelli, Bill Stouffer, Mark DiSalvo, Jason Mester, Ty Morgan, and a handful of other studs and beasts. Point being, I’m throwing out names from a 5-year span on this roster. I’m not even including Casey Cunningham, Scotti Sentes, Jarrod Trice, Matt Steintrager, Mike Miller, and 4x AA and current Assistant Coach, Ben Bennett, who I had the pleasure of speaking with to give you some insight into their next season. This school has a rich tradition of All Americans, MAC Team Championships, and MAC Individual Champions.
As a proud Alumni of the school, I’m excited for the future of this program, and the youth and depth they have ready to step in and continue on the success and growth that they had last year. Last year was one that had its ups and downs. There was a lot of youth in the lineup (there still is really, with only one senior on the team), and a lot of growing pains that go along with it. Many of whom likely hadn’t planned on being thrust into the lineup that soon, but with the sudden departures of Justin Oliver and Mason Smith, found themselves being called to represent the Chippewas. That being said, let’s take a look at their projected lineups, and with that being said, what better way to begin than FIRE UP CHIPS!!!
125 – Drew Hildebrandt has been the starter in this lineup from the moment he came out of his redshirt season. Drew gained a lot of confidence from some big wins he had throughout the season. One of the first matches of the year ended with him beating Michigan’s Drew Mattin, an opponent who he had lost to the year before a couple of times. Drew also logged a win over AA Rayvon Foley of Michigan State, as well as avenged a loss against Gabe Townsell of Stanford (the Borrelli bowl) at NCAAs. Coach Ben Bennett shared that those wins go a long way towards establishing foundational confidence that will allow him to end up on the podium this season. Behind Drew, is Zach Shupp, who had a solid freshman season while redshirting, and should continue to push Drew in the practice room.
133 – Last season both Brock Bergelin and Deven Perez split time in the lineup. As a fan of the team, I was curious about the switches in the lineup last season, as both guys had some success in tournaments and in duals. In speaking with assistant coach Ben Bennett, he let me know that it truly is a series of challenge matches. This will end up being a theme in many of the weights for CMU. Competition in the room is great for pushing people to continue to make improvements and to get to another level. Not to mention that once getting into the lineup, they’ll have a chance to get into one of the tougher schedules that you can get. Bergelin and Perez are both solid starters, and I’m looking forward to seeing whoever rises to the top come March.
141 – Here’s where things get crazy!!! You may remember two years ago, Dresden Simon wrestled at 133. It was a substantial cut to make the weight, but he could do it, and committed early to it to make sure he could do it healthily. The next season (last year) the lineup opened up and he made the jump up to 149. In 2018-19, Drew Marten, a freshman last year, jumped into the lineup and competed well for CMU at 141. There were a lot of positives that I saw out of the young Chippewa, and know he’ll do well competing for this team. However, it appears that Simon may be dropping back down to 141, where he believes he could be more competitive on the national scene, and allows him a better chance at reaching his goals. As I stated before, the coaching staff (as do I) really believes that competition in the room will make for the best results while competing out of the room. Whoever wins the spot at 141 will undoubtedly represent the Chippewas well and be a force in the newly expanded MAC conference.
149 – If Dresden Simon remains at 149, this will likely be his spot. However, if he ends up dropping to 141, then this spot will probably go to Corbyn Munson. Munson was 16-10 last season, splitting time between 141 and 149 respectively. He improved greatly throughout the season and has had a great summer of training, according to coach Bennett. They’re really excited to see him get more exposure to top competition and his upside. Corbyn started wrestling and competing later in life, around 7th grade and is a very athletic wrestler. The coaching staff believes that he is far from reaching his full potential, and is looking forward to seeing what an entire season in the lineup will do to help him make strides and work towards achieving that potential. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he’s able to do this first, of what will likely be many years in the lineup.
157 – Logan Parks is entering his fourth and final year in the CMU lineup. He started his career as a true freshman at 165, where he showed some promise, but also took some lumps. Coach Bennett really expressed the work that he puts in, and how he’s a great leader in the room. Last season he dropped down to 157, where he showed some flashes of greatness. Parks had a big win over eventual All American, Larry Early of Old Dominion, and was an NCAA qualifier. Coach Bennett talked about how he had an excellent summer, and showed a tremendous amount of improvement. I genuinely believe that Logan will have an outstanding year, and 157 has opened up a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing him compete in his final year as a Chippewa.
165 – Bret Fedewa is likely in the driver’s seat to earn this spot. He also had a great summer, according to coach Bennett, and is one of the guys who they never have to ask to put in extra work, or to show up to workouts. Wrestling is very important to him, and Bret is extremely competitive, and, like Parks, is a leader in the room. Last season he spent some time in the lineup, but like many of the other young wrestlers in last years lineup, they likely weren’t fully prepared for the competition they were going to face. Bret has made tremendous improvements over the summer, and the coaching staff expects him to have a lot more confidence and success on the mat this season.
174 – CMU has two 174 pound wrestlers listed on their roster, Jake Lowell and Ryan Ringler. Ringler (a solid recruit for them) is going to redshirt this true freshman season. This will likely be a competition between Jake Lowell, and Sage Castillo. Lowell competed most of the year last year at 174, compiling a 9-10 record. Sage Castillo is a Redshirt Junior, who has had winning records in each of his three seasons, mostly competing in Open tournaments. This is another weight that will likely be contested for most of the year.
184 – Keeping in line with the theme of the last weight class, this will truly be a competition between a couple guys on the roster. Likely it will end up between Ben Cushman and Jacob Gray. Cushman is a redshirt freshman, who had a solid redshirt campaign, winning the Alma Open, and placing at several other tournaments. Gray has competed valiantly, but has had more struggles. Even so, they have depth at the weight and should have some solid competition in the room to keep them wrestling sharp in competitions. Cushman is who I anticipate will end up in the spot, and could hold it down for a couple years if that’s the case. He was a 2x State Champion in High School, at 215 and 189, and showed a lot of promise in his redshirt year, and according to CMU Wrestling’s Instagram page, recently had a birthday. Happy Birthday Ben.
197 – Landon Pelham was the starter last season for the Chippewas, finishing the season at 9-16. Pelham won almost half of those matches by fall and finished off his season by pinning Kent State’s wrestler to place 7th at the MAC championships. Pelham will likely wrestle off against Aaron Bolo, who was able to get a couple big wins on the year also. Aaron is long and lanky, and can make it very tough for wrestlers from the top position. Like 184, there is solid depth at the weight, and we should see these guys improve as the season goes along.
285 – Matt Stencel. He’s big and fast and likes to pin people and (shhhhh… don’t tell anyone) should be considered a title contender this year. Remember when he was in the NCAA Quarterfinals against Derek White and almost beat him (3-1 final score)? That’s how I remember it. Coach Bennett and I discussed how many of the publications don’t really bring him up in the Heavyweight conversation very often, which is a gross oversight of one of the more impressive young heavyweights of last season. Remember when he beat Junior World Champion Mason Parris in the Bloodround? I do. Entering this year, he’ll be looking for his third MAC Championship in as many seasons, and was last year’s pin leader for the country with 19. Not to mention, in addition to his own goals and motivations to win a National TItle, coach Ben Bennett has promised that when he wins the title, he’ll grow out his hair into a Mullet. I can’t do that, as I’m follically challenged, but I’d like to also declare that when Stencel wins an NCAA Title, I’ll rock the Uncle Phil Cul-de-sac hair for a month.
So there we have it. This is the likely, or projected lineups/challenge matches for the Central Michigan University Wrestling Team. It’s going to be a lineup that I anticipate will change throughout the season, and with the internal competition to earn the starting spot, I trust you’ll see a different group in March than you’ll see in November. However, make sure you tune into their Intrasquad meet to check that out (date TBD, but I’ll keep you posted). There are going to be a handful of weights that these guys will be fighting tooth and nail for. You’re own internal Bloodround, if you will. This team is still young, but entering an exciting year with the MAC expanding. Coach Bennett talked about how they are looking forward to competing in the two divisions of the MAC, and how they’ll have some extra competition from good schools like Lock Haven and Rider on their schedule this season. The MAC is now one of the largest and deepest conferences in the country, and this young and hungry Chippewa squad is looking forward to showing you that they are as tough and as strong as they always are. It’s a fun team, with a combination of experience, youth, and talent, which should yield some exciting results. Yeah, I’m going to start it and end it the same way. FIRE UP CHIPS!!!
Central Michigan’s Wrestle-Off’s will be held on October 28th at 7pm est.