Story courtesy of Eastern Michigan University athletics
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YPSILANTI, Mich. ? Eastern Michigan University will play host to the 2009 Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships Saturday and Sunday, March 7-8, at the Convocation Center.
Included in the teams vying for a MAC Championship are two nationally ranked squads, Central Michigan University and Kent State University. CMU enters the meet as the 10th ranked team while Kent is ranked 20th. Kent upset CMU in their only dual-meet match-up this year.
The six teams competing for the title will be the University at Buffalo, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Kent State University, Northern Illinois University, and Ohio University.
This year’s tournament will feature 60 of the MAC’s best grapplers who will battle for a conference title and a trip to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo. Thanks to a brand new selection system, the NCAA has awarded the MAC 19 spots at the annual event, with several more pending. The system is designed to ensure that the best 33 wrestlers in each weight class represent the sport at the Championship Tournament.
Six members of the host EMU squad come into the tournament ranked in the top four in their respective weight classes. Redshirt junior Chris Jenkins (Tecumseh, Mich.-Tecumseh) and redshirt sophomore David Wade (Beavercreek, Ohio-Beavercreek) are ranked third in the 125 lb. and heavyweight division, respectively. Jenkins finished the regular season with a 13-8 record while Wade earned a solid 15-10 mark.
At 149, redshirt freshman J.J. Johnson sits in fourth seed with a team-leading mark of 17-9. Also holding fourth place spots are senior Josh Moulton at 159 (15-14), redshirt sophomore Nick Hendrick at 165 (4-11), senior Don Funk at 174 (4-12), and senior John McClure at 197 (12-15).
Central Michigan (17-3-1; 4-1 MAC) enters this year’s MAC Championships having won the previous seven titles. Last season, the Chippewas took home seven individual titles en route to an easy victory in the team competition. CMU will likely face tougher competition this season, particularly from Kent State. The Golden Flashes have already claimed the MAC regular season title, posting a perfect 5-0 record after knocking-off the Chippewas, 18-14, to end the season. Both teams come into the competition ranked, No. 10 and No. 20, respectively.
The Chippewas are coming off a 17-victory regular season which ties a record high win total for that program (2006-07). As many as six CMU grapplers could potentially make their MAC Championship debut over the weekend. Tyler Grayson, Trevor Stewart and Mike Miller each rank first in their respective weight classes (157, 165 and 174), with Grayson and Miller each vying for their first MAC Title.
Kent State (13-4; 5-0 MAC) will begin the weekend’s competition with momentum on its side after claiming the MAC regular season title over the Chippewas. That feat marked the team’s first season title since 2003 and the first outright distinction since 1990. The Flashes enter the weekend with a loaded lineup which includes six grapplers who rank first in their conference’s weight class: Nic Bedelyon (125), Danny Mitcheff (133), Drew Lashaway (141), Dustin Kligore (184), Eric Chine (197), and Jermail Porter (HWT).
Ohio (9-9-1; 3-2 MAC) will look to improve upon a fourth place finish in last season’s MAC Championships, where four Bobcats managed top-four finishes. This season, the Bobcats will be led by Jacob Ison at 174 and sophomore Erik Schuth at 184. Ison is ranked 24th nationally while Schuth is tied for 31st in his weight division. Seven of Ohio’s participants come into the tournament with winning records.
Mickey Moran (184) and Jimmy Hamel (197) were finalists in the 2008 edition of the MAC Championships for Buffalo (9-11; 1-4 MAC), who looks to make its mark with a strong performance after a disappointing fourth place finish at last year’s event. Also adding to the Bulls’ attack will be Desi Green at 149, who earned the most takedowns of any wrestler this season with 67.
Finally, Northern Illinois (5-8; 1-4 MAC) heads into the event with four wrestlers ranked in the top-four for their respective weight classes in the MAC. Izzy Montemayor ranks fourth at 125, Pat McLemore is tied for second at 133, Steve Zimmerman is in the three spot at 149, and Bryan O’Connor is tied for fourth at 165.
Although the Eagles enter the tournament as underdogs, head coach Derek DelPorto and his team are confident that a big home crowd will provide an added advantage. “I really hope everyone in the community and all the local high school and middle school wrestlers, EMU Alumni and supporters come out to watch some great wrestling,” DelPorto said.
Saturday’s action begins at 1 p.m. while Sunday’s events get underway at 11 a.m.