CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Aside from the March NCAA Wrestling Championships, there are few, if any tournaments more grueling and loaded with talent than the Southern Scuffle at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The 16th-ranked Central Michigan wrestling team came away with an eighth-place finish Saturday in a 30-team field that featured 10 teams ranked in the USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association Top 25 poll.
"I feel like we wrestled pretty well most of the weekend," CMU coach Tom Borrelli said. "I feel like we got a lot better this weekend and we're more aggressive."
No.1 Penn State took home the Scuffle title, racking up 183 team points. No. 7 Oklahoma State was second with 158, followed by No. 10 Lehigh,104.5; No. 14 Cornell, 98.5; and No. 15 North Carolina, 97.5.
CMU managed to send five wrestlers to the podium on the weekend. Justin Oliver turned in the best finish among the Chippewas, placing third at 149 pounds.
Also for CMU, Brent Fleetwood (125) finished fourth, Zach Horan (141) was sixth, and Luke Smith (157) and Mike Ottinger (174) both finished seventh.
Oliver, and unseeded sophomore wrestling in place of injured Colin Heffernan, finished the tournament with a 6-1 record. He defeated Matthew Cimato of Drexel, 5-2, in the third-place match, avenging an earlier loss to Cimato.
Cimato, who was seeded sixth in the tournament and is ranked 12th nationally at 149 by Amateur Wrestling News, defeated Oliver, 11-5, in a quarterfinal match on Saturday morning.
Oliver rebounded from that loss to top Mitch Finesilver of Duke, 8-6, to earn a rematch with Cimato. Oliver's win over Climato was his second of the tournament over a ranked wrestler. He defeated No. 13 Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State on Friday.
"Oliver was very good all weekend and he just got stronger as the tournament went on," Borelli said. "He was able to avenge his loss to (Cimato) and he was aggressive and looking to score points."
Fleetwood, a sophomore who was seeded 10th, finished the tournament 5-2, beating Steven Polakowski of Minnesota, 1-0, before falling to third seed and No. 6-ranked Eddie Klimara of Oklahoma State, 9-3, in the semifinals.
Fleetwood defeated Austin Assad of Michigan, 2-0, in the consolation semifinals and dropped a 7-5 decision to 13th-ranked Zeke Moisey of West Virginia. Moisey is the defending national runner-up and was seeded third in the tournament.
"Brent had a real good weekend for us and I think this tournament will serve as a real confidence booster for him moving forward," Borrelli said.
Horan, a senior who was seeded fifth and 18th in the nation, finished the tournament 4-2, claiming a 7-5 decision over Cortland Schuyler of Lehigh followed by a 4-2 loss to third-seed and No. 4 ranked Joey McKenna of Stanford.
Horan dropped a 10-2 major decision to fourth-seed and No. 7-ranked Tommy Thorn of Minnesota to place sixth. Horan finished fifth in the Scuffle last season.
Smith, a senior who was seeded third, finished the tournament 4-2. He topped Drew Longo of Lehigh, 3-1, in the seventh-place match.
Smith opened Saturday's competition with a 7-6 loss to Ian Brown of Lehigh, then topped Dylan Cottrell of West Virginia, 13-7. Smith was pinned by Duke's Zack Beitz in 3 minutes, 53 seconds to fall into the seventh-place match.
Ottinger, a senior who was seeded fifth and ranked No. 12, finished the tournament 4-2. He defeated Ross Renzie of West Virginia, 4-2 SV-2, in the seventh-place match.
Ottinger opened on Saturday with a 4-3 loss to fourth-seeded Bo Nickal of Penn State. Nickal, who is ranked sixth, went on to win the tournament.
After falling to Nickal, Ottinger rebounded with a 10-1 major decision victory over Nick Kee of Appalachian State. Ottinger was then pinned by eighth-seed Chandler Rogers of Oklahoma State to fall into the seventh-place match.
"I think (Smith and Ottinger) along with Horan were real disappointed not into the finals and semifinals," Borrelli said. "It's tough on those guys when they're expected to do well and I think that affected the way they finished the tournament."
Also for CMU:
At 125, Carter Ballinger finished the tournament 3-2 and was eliminated on a 24-12 major decision loss to Vitio Pasone of Appalachian State.
At 165, Jordan Atienza finished 2-2 and was eliminated by Garrett Hammond of Penn State on an 8-0 major decision.
At 174, C.J Brucki finished 3-2 and was eliminated on a pin by Chandler Rodgers of Oklahoma State.
At 184, Jordan Ellingwood finished 1-2 and was eliminated by Garet Krohn of Stanford, 8-5.
At 197, Jackson Lewis finished 1-2 and was eliminated on a pin by J.T. Goodwin of Cal-Poly.
HWT: Newton Smerchek finished 1-2 and was eliminated by Doug Vallaro of Lehigh, 2-0. Adam Robinson finished the tournament 3-2 and was eliminated by Vallaro, 6-3.
"I think the biggest thing we need to work on, and it not so much with our younger guys as it is our older guys, is breaking some habits," Borrrelli said. "Our older guys have to change some of their habits on the mat and that can be hard for them because they have had a lot of success in the past.
"They really need to work on trying new things and break out of their comfort zones a little bit for them to improve."
The Chippewas will return home on Saturday, Jan. 9, for a non-conference dual meet with Oregon State at 2 p.m. at McGuirk Arena. On Sunday, Jan. 10, the Chippewas entertain Ohio in a Mid-American Conference dual.