Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Two rugged early season tournaments, dual meets with three Big Ten teams, and the annual battles with Mid-American Conference foes highlight the 2016-17 Central Michigan wrestling team's schedule.
The Chippewas begin the season with the EMU Open at Eastern Michigan on Nov. 5, followed by the home opener on Nov. 13, a dual with Virginia of the ACC at McGuirk Arena.
The entire December slate comprises just two events, and both will present strong challenges to the Chippewas, who, last season, finished 11-5 in duals, placed second in the MAC Championships, and were 32nd - with one All-American - in the NCAA Championships.
The Chippewas will wrestle in the Las Vegas Invitational Dec. 2-3 and the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships, hosted by Northwestern, Dec. 29-30.
Last year, the Chippewas competed in the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Southern Scuffle. Las Vegas and Midlands replace those two events this season.
The competition level at the Midlands is comparable to what CMU has faced in the past at the Southern Scuffle, longtime coach Tom Borrelli said. Las Vegas, he added, is a step up from the Reno Tournament of Champions.
"I think we have an attitude of guys who really want to compete and that (Las Vegas) tournament will be very, very competitive," he said. "The biggest reason we're going back (to the Midlands) is it fits better in our schedule. The Southern Scuffle is the first and second of January and the Midlands is the 29th and 30th of December. It gives us more time to train before we get into our MAC schedule."
The Chippewas open the MAC portion of their schedule on Jan. 8 with a dual at Ohio. They will wrestle league foes Northern Iowa, Old Dominion, Northern Illinois and Kent State at home this season. They are scheduled to go to Missouri, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan.
The Chippewas will square off with three Big Ten squads -- Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin - in dual meets.
They MAC Championships are scheduled for March 4-5 at Northern Iowa. The NCAA Championships are set for St. Louis from March 16-18.
It is, as usual, an ambitious schedule, the better to prepare the Chippewas for the rigors of the MAC and NCAA championships, Borrelli said.
"It's pretty comparable to what we've done in the past," he said. "We always have a pretty challenging dual-meet schedule. The competition in the MAC has certainly been upgraded in the last four, five years with the additions of Missouri, Northern Iowa and Old Dominion."
The Chippewas begin the season ranked 25th nationally by WIN Magazine. Four of their 2016-17 opponents are also in the top 25. Missouri is fifth, Michigan is sixth, Wisconsin is 13th, and Northern Iowa is 18th.
Justin Oliver, a sophomore who last year earned All-America honors with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships, is the highest-ranked Chippewa, sixth at 149 pounds.
Other ranked CMU wrestlers: Corey Keener, senior, 14th, 133; Colin Heffernan, junior, 14th, 157; and Jordan Ellingwood, junior, 14th, 184.
CMU's annual Intrasquad Meet is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, at McGuirk Arena.