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In more than 60 seasons of Mid-American Conference wrestling, there have been just eight four-time champions.
Central Michigan's Matt Stencel and Missouri's Brock Mauller can remain on track to join that elite club at this year's MAC Championship Tournament March 7-8 at Northern Illinois.
Stencel (285 pounds), a junior, is seeking his third straight title and Mauller (149 pounds) his second after winning as a freshman last season.
Other returning champions are Missouri's Jarret Jacques (157) and Dylan Wisman (184).
There are also several wrestlers in the field who have won Eastern Wrestling League titles last season before the league merged with the MAC last spring.
Here is a breakdown of what to expect in each weight class.
Ranked wrestlers: 8. Drew Hildebrandt (Central Michigan), 13. Luke Werner (Lock Haven), 19. Killian Cardinale (Old Dominion)
Outlook: A new face will stand atop the podium in this division with two-time defending Michael McGee sidelined since late January with an injury. He had been in and out of the lineup most of the season.
Hildebrandt, beaten by McGee in last year's title match, has established himself as the favorite, but not a runaway favorite. The junior is unbeaten in the MAC (9-0), but was pushed by Werner in their only meeting this season before taking a 3-2 decision.
Hildebrandt, 28-3 overall, will enter the MAC tourney on a nine-match win streak, but has not faced Cardinale. More than half of Hildebrandt's wins have come via pin (eight) or major decision (six).
Besides Werner, his biggest wins have come against No. 16 Trey Chalifoux (Army), No. 17 Gage Curry (American), No. 20 Justin Cardani (Illinois) and No. 22 Jack Medley (Michigan).
Hildebrandt, No. 1 in the final MAC Coaches rankings, boasts a 70-31 career record.
Werner, a junior, has only lost to Hildebrandt in MAC competition and edged Cardinale, 4-2. Second in the MAC Coaches rankings, Werner is 26-4 and has lost only twice since dropping his first two matches of the season and has a seven-match winning streak.
In all, 69 percent of his wins have come via pin (five), technical fall (six) or major decision (seven). He has also beaten Chalifoux and owns an 81-28 career mark.
Cardinale, a sophomore, has turned his collegiate career around with a 22-8 record after going just 13-17 last season. He has only lost to Werner in the MAC.
No. 3 in the MAC Coaches rankings, Cardinale has beaten No. 15 Jakob Camacho (North Carolina State) and No. 24 Joey Prata (Virginia Tech) twice.
Ranked wrestlers: 16. Allan Hart (Missouri), 21 Tim Rooney (Kent State), 22. Derek Spann (Buffalo)
Outlook: This division will finally see a new champion with the graduation of three-time winner John Erneste (Missouri) and it could hardly be more wide-open.
Hart may be ranked the highest, but he has been pinned by Rooney and stopped via technical fall by Spann. He is only 3-2 in the MAC.
Still, the sophomore has caught fire of late, winning five straight matches, including decisions over No. 17 Todd Small (Iowa State) and No. 19 Reece Witcraft (Oklahoma State). Hart also beat No. 18 Jack Skudlerczyk (Northern Iowa) last month.
Hart, fourth in the MAC Coaches rankings, is 17-8 overall with five pins, four major decisions, and three technical falls.
Rooney has beaten Hart and Spann (6-4), but lost to unranked Tye Vardell (Edinboro) and Justin Patrick (Cleveland State) in the MAC. The senior later avenged the loss to Vardell and has knocked off Skudlerczyk and No. 14 Devan Turner (Oregon State).
No. 3 in the MAC Coaches rankings, Rooney is 20-9 this season and has a 93-63 career mark.
Spann, decisioned by Erneste in last year's MAC title match, has also won five straight and lost only to Rooney in the MAC. However, Hart is the only currently-ranked wrestler he has beaten.
No. 1 in the MAC Coaches rankings, Spann, a junior, is 20-4 with seven technical falls, three major decisions, and a pin. He owns a 55-19 career record.
A wildcard is Lock Haven's D.J. Fehlman, last year's Eastern Wrestling League champion. The senior is 10-0 in the MAC, but has not faced Hart, Rooney or Spann.
Fehlman, ranked No. 2 by MAC coaches, is 22-7 with six major decisions, three pins and two technical falls, but has not beaten anyone currently ranked. However, he bested No. 5 Charles Tucker (Cornell) in last year's NCAA Tournament.
Ranked wrestlers: 12. Dresden Simon (Central Michigan), 16. Evan Cheek (Cleveland State), 17. Shakur Laney (Ohio), 23. Kyle Shoop (Lock Haven)
Outlook: Once owned by three-time champion Jaydin Eierman (Missouri), this division will also get a new winner after Eierman transferred out of the MAC to Iowa. Picking a winner is difficult here as well with nobody going unscathed in the conference.
Simon, a junior, has made one of the most significant turnarounds in Division 1 this season with a 25-8 record after going 26-32 the past two years. He boasts 10 major decisions, three pins, and a technical fall.
Simon, first in the MAC Coaches rankings, is 11-2 in the conference, but has lost to Laney (8-7) and Northern Illinois' Anthony Gibson (9-3), who is just 12-7 this season. Simon has beaten Shoop (18-5) and Cheek (8-4).
Outside of the MAC, he owns wins over No. 10 Michael Blockhus (Northern Iowa) and No. 20 Dylan Duncan (Illinois).
Cheek, an EWL champion in 2018, is 33-4, including 13-3 in the MAC, losing to Simon, Laney (8-6) and George Mason's Alex Madrigal (4-2). However, the senior, No. 4 in the latest MAC Coaches rankings, decisioned Laney (8-4) in their last meeting. He has not faced Shoop.
Cheek has eight pins, six technical falls, and four major-decision wins. He has also beaten No. 24 Grant Willits (Oregon State) and owns a 106-27 career mark.
After struggling to a 13-10 record at 125 a year ago, Laney has settled in at much more comfortable weight and is 21-8, 9-3 in the MAC.
In addition to splitting with Cheek and beating Simon, the senior has lost to Shoop (8-4) and Missouri's Grant Leeth, who has again been slowed by injuries. Laney has beaten Blockhus and Willits as well.
No. 5 in the MAC Coaches rankings, Laney has seven major-decision wins, two pins, and two technical falls. He has an 85-39 career mark.
Shoop, last year's EWL champion, is 18-5 and 8-2 in the MAC, falling to Simon and Old Dominion's Sa'Derian Perry (5-4) and beating Laney. The senior has not faced Cheek.
Shoop, a 2019 All-American, has also defeated Willits and beat No. 4 Chad Red (Nebraska) last year. Ranked No. 3 by MAC Coaches, Shoop has five technical falls and four major decisions this season and boasts a 126-44 career record.
Ranked wrestlers: 5. Brock Mauller (Missouri), 12. Brock Zacherl (Clarion), 20. Colston DiBlasi (George Mason), 24. Tyshawn Williams (SIUE)
Outlook: A battle of the Brocks will likely decide this division.
Mauller, 24-1 and seeking his second straight title, is the clear favorite, but watch out for Zacherl. Mauller, a sophomore, has never lost to a MAC foe, but has yet to face Zacherl, who is 20-3 and 12-0 in the MAC.
Mauller, sixth at last year's NCAA Championships, is 10-0 in the MAC, including a 15-6 win over DiBlasi and two wins over Williams (5-3 and 8-4). He has not lost since being upset by Wyoming's Jaron Jensen (6-5) on Dec. 29. Mauller has six major decisions and two technical falls.
Ranked first by MAC coaches, he has gone 57-6 the past two seasons. Mauller has also knocked off No. 6 Boo Lewallen (Oklahoma State), No. 9 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa) and No. 23 Tanner Smith (Chattanooga) this season.
Zacherl, a senior, is riding an 11-match winning streak and has plenty of experience as a three-time NCAA qualifier and EWL Champion back in 2016. He owns wins over DiBlasi (4-2), Williams (3-1) and No. 15 Collin Purinton (Nebraska).
Zacherl, ranked second by MAC coaches, has three major decisions, two technical falls, and a pin. His career mark is 112-16.
DiBlasi, also a senior, is 29-8 and 8-2 in the MAC, losing only to Mauller and Zacherl. He has not faced Williams, but has nine pins, two technical falls, and a major decision.
Ranked No. 3 by MAC coaches, DiBlasi has won nine straight matches and owns wins this season over No. 14 Kizhan Clarke (American) and No. 22 Jon Millner (Appalachian State). He has a 105-55 career record.
Willliams, a senior, is only 10-7 this season, but 6-2 in his last eight matches. Ranked No. 4 by MAC coaches, Williams is 5-3 in the MAC, losing to Mauller twice and Zacherl once. He has not faced DiBlasi.
He has not beaten any currently-ranked wrestlers, but was a Southern Conference champion and NCAA qualifier in 2018.
Ranked wrestlers: 5. Jesse Dellavecchia (Rider), 12. Zac Carson (Ohio), 13. Justin Ruffin (SIUE), 14. Larry Early (Old Dominion), 16. Logan Parks (Central Michigan), 25. Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)
Outlook: Jacques decisioned Early for last year’s title, but much has changed since then and the two are only part of a very crowded field of contenders. In fact, three MAC wrestlers are ranked ahead of them, meaning there is plenty to sort out at the conference tourney.
Dellavecchia, a senior, is enjoying the best season of his career and has won 12 straight matches. He is 26-2 and 7-0 in the MAC, but Early is the only currently-ranked MAC foe he has faced, taking a 1-0 decision.
Dellavecchia, first in the MAC Coaches rankings, has lost only to No. 2 Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State and No. 4 Quincy Monday (Princeton), but has also decisioned Monday (4-2) this season. Other wins have come against No. 9 Marcus Hartman (Army) and No. 23 Justin McCoy (Virginia).
Overall, Dellavecchia has six major decisions, a pin, and two technical falls. His career mark is 87-22.
Carson, also a senior, is 20-7 overall and 7-0 in the MAC, including close wins over Jacques (3-2), Ruffin (5-3) and Parks (4-3). Carson has won 10 straight matches and owns wins over No. 22 Taleb Rahman (Pittsburgh) and No. 24 BC LaPrade (Virginia Tech).
Carson, ranked third by MAC coaches, has three major decisions, two pins, and a technical fall to his credit and a 72-41 career mark.
Ruffin, a sophomore, is 22-7 after going 18-12 a year ago. He is 9-3 in the MAC, including pinning Parks and a 3-1 win over Early. However, Ruffin has also been pinned by Parks and lost to Carson and Jacques (3-2).
Ranked fourth by MAC coaches, Ruffin has six major decisions, four technical falls, and a pin.
Early, a senior and 2018 All-American, is 17-5, but only 5-3 in the MAC with losses to Dellavecchia, Ruffin, and Jacques (7-1).
Ranked fifth by MAC Coaches, Early does have some impressive non-conference wins, including McCoy, LaPrade and No. 17 Anthony Artalona. Early's career mark is 81-34.
Parks, another senior, 18-10 and 8-3 in the MAC, including pinning Ruffin. He also lost to Carson, was pinned by Ruffin and edged by Jacques (5-4). Parks also owns wins over Artalona, McCoy, and No. 20 Jake Tucker (Michigan State).
He has four technical falls, two pins, and two major decisions and has a 74-57 career record.
Despite a lower national ranking than several in the field, Jacques, a sophomore, still has a solid chance to repeat. He is 22-6 and 9-1 in the MAC, losing to Carson. Jacques' wins over Early, Ruffin, and Parks are significant, but he has not faced Dellavecchia.
Jacques also defeated Tucker and has four technical falls, three major decisions, and a pin.
Ranked wrestlers: 23. Izzak Olejnik (Northern Illinois), 24. Troy Keller (Buffalo)
Outlook: Keller, a senior, is the defending champion and boasts a record of 17-4 overall, 9-1 in the MAC. His only conference loss was a 5-3 decision to Olejnik and Keller has not beaten a currently-ranked wrestler.
Still, he is ranked No. 1 by MAC coaches and has three technical falls, three major decisions, and two pins. Keller is 36-12 in his two Division 1 seasons.
Before Buffalo, Keller was a national JUCO champion and two-time All-American at Niagara County Community College.
Olejnik, a freshman, is 16-9 and 9-2 in the MAC, including the win over Keller. However, he has lost to Missouri's Peyton Mocco (1-0) and, somehow, dropped a 10-6 decision to Kade Byland of Kent State, who is just 13-18 this season.
Yet, Olejnik has also beaten No. 12 Shayne Oster (Northwestern) and No. 16 Dan Braunagel (Illinois). He has three pins and two major decisions and is ranked second by MAC coaches.
Mocco is another freshman contender. He is 23-11, but 9-1 in the MAC. His lone conference loss was to teammate Luke Fortuna, whom Mocco eventually beat out for a starting spot. Mocco has six pins, five major decisions, and two technical falls.
Ranked wrestlers: 13. Jacob Oliver (Edinboro), 17. Dean Sherry (Rider), 19. Andrew McNally (Kent State)
Outlook: A dominant performer has also moved on in this weight class with the graduation of Missouri's Daniel Lewis, a four-time MAC champion. He was the 174-pound titlist the past two years after winning the 165-pound crown as a freshman and sophomore.
There is a two-time conference champion in the field, however. Sherry, a senior, won EWL titles the past two seasons, pinning Oliver in last year's championship match.
It was Oliver who took the rematch earlier this season, though, with a 13-11 decision.
Oliver, a sophomore, has also pinned McNally as part of his 22-4 record. Oliver is not without a MAC blemish, however, dropping a 7-4 decision to George Mason's Anthony Lombardo, who is just 16-15.
Still, Oliver has a 12-match winning streak and has also beaten No. 14 Gregg Harvey (Pittsburgh) and No. 18 Neal Richards (VMI).
Ranked first by MAC coaches, Oliver has eight major decisions, two pins, and a technical fall. He owns a 50-11 career record.
Sherry has lost only to Oliver in the MAC, but has not faced McNally. He is 20-6, 8-1 in the MAC, with two pins and three major decisions.
Ranked second by MAC coaches, Sherry began the season with bang, pinning No. 6 Devin Skatzka (Minnesota). He has also knocked off No. 15 Daniel Bullard (North Carolina State). Sherry's career mark is 72-32.
McNally, a junior, is 29-6, including 13-1 in the MAC with the lone loss to Oliver. McNally has also pinned Bullard and beaten No. 23 Layne Malczewski (Michigan State).
Ranked third by MAC coaches, he has nine major decisions, three pins, and two technical falls. McNally's career record is 81-31. He wrestled for MAC title a year ago at 184, dropping a 9-4 decision to Missouri's Dylan Wisman.
Ranked wrestlers: None
Outlook: The only weight class without a nationally-ranked wrestler should be entertaining nonetheless and figures to be a three-man race.
Defending champion Dylan Wisman, a Missouri senior, is back and first in the MAC Coaches rankings, followed by Bloomsburg's Trevor Allard and Northern Illinois' Brit Wilson, who lost in the 174-pound title match a year ago.
On paper, the three appear closely matched and the latest NCAA Coaches Panel Rankings, released Thursday, confirm that. Allard is No. 24, Wilson No. 26 and Wisman No. 27.
Wisman is 16-7 and 10-0 in the MAC, and decisioned Wilson (11-3) earlier this season. He has not wrestled Allard, but decisioned No. 7 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State). Wisman, owner of a 54-28 career mark, has five major decisions, three pins, and a technical fall this season.
Allard, a senior, is 21-2 and 11-0 in the MAC, but has not grappled with Wisman or Wilson. He has beaten No. 22 Jelani Embree (Michigan).
Allard's only losses have been to No. 19 Noah Stewart (Army) and unranked Kyle Davis (Sacred Heart). He has four major decisions, two technical falls, and a pin. Allard's career mark is 94-42.
Wilson, a sophomore, is 17-3 and 7-2 in the MAC with losses to Wisman and Rider's George Walton. He has beaten No. 13 Zach Braunagel (Illinois) and more than half of his wins have come via major decision (five), technical fall (three) or pin (three).
Wilson has gone 42-10 the past two seasons.
Ranked wrestlers: 11. Greg Bulsak (Clarion), 16. Ethan Laird (Rider), 20. Wyatt Koelling (Missouri), 25. Colin McCracken (Kent State)
Outlook: Last year's champion, Brett Perry of Buffalo, has graduated, leaving this division fairly wide-open.
Bulsak, a junior, is also ranked first by MAC Coaches and is 23-5 this season, 12-1 in the MAC. His lone conference loss was an 11-4 decision to Northern Ilinois' Gage Braun. He has beaten Laird (8-1) and McCracken (6-1) and will carry a 15-match winning streak into the MAC Tournament.
Bulsak has not faced Koelling this season, but pinned him last year.
Outside of the conference, Bulsak has defeated No. 7 Jay Aiello (Virginia), No. 12 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State), No. 21 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming) and No. 22 Tanner Orndorff (Utah Valley).
Bulsak has nine pins, five major decisions, and a technical fall. His career mark is 61-22.
Laird, last year's EWL champion, is 21-7, 7-1 MAC with the lone loss to Bulsak. The junior has not faced Koelling or McCracken, but has beaten No. 17 Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State) and No. 23 Jaron Smith (Maryland).
Ranked second by MAC coaches, Laird has six major decisions and a pin. His career mark is 60-30.
Koelling, a junior, is 19-5 and 8-1 in the MAC with the lone loss to Cleveland State's Ben Smith. He has beaten McCracken (3-2), but has met Bulsak or Laird.
Koelling's biggest win was a decision over No. 9 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State). He has also defeated Buchanan. Koelling has four pins, a major decision, and a technical fall. His career record is 59-27.
It's been an up and down season for McCracken, who is 20-13 and just 7-7 in the MAC, including losses to Bulsak and Koelling. He has not faced Laird and has three pins, three major decisions, and a technical fall.
McCracken's career mark is 37-21.
Ranked wrestlers: 4. Matt Stencel (Central Michigan)
Outlook: The race here is for second place with Stencel (26-4) an overwhelming favorite. In fact, he has not lost a MAC match since Feb. 11, 2018.
Stencel, a junior, is tied for second in the nation with 13 pins and has one major decision. His only losses this season have been to No. 2 Mason Parris (Michigan) three times and No. 3 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa).
Stencel, an All-American last season, has beaten No. 5 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin), No. 9 Yaraslau Slavikouski (Harvard), No. 19 Ben Sullivan (Army) and No. 25 John Borst (Virginia Tech).
Stencel boasts an 85-25 career record and 32 of his last 57 wins have come via pin.
Next in the MAC Coaches rankings is Edinboro's Jon Spaulding, a junior, who is 11-0 MAC and 24-8 overall. Of course, he has not faced Stencel and has not beaten any currently-ranked wrestler.
Spaulding, also No. 27 in the latest NCAA Coaches Panel rankings, has five major decisions, three pins, and a technical fall. His career mark is 45-23.
As you can see in our MAC rankings, the Missouri Tigers are predictably in the driver's seat. With a projected 114.5 team points, they're well ahead of second-place Central Michigan (87.5) and third-place Rider (82). There is an even greater dropoff after those top three teams with schools like Lock Haven (65), Northern Illinois (64.5), and Ohio (59.5) battling for fourth place.
Of course, wrestling happens on the mat — not in the rankings. Even so, Missouri boasts top-end talent in a guy like Brock Mauller and, more importantly, greater depth than anyone in the conference.
Mark Spezia is a freelance writer based in Lapeer, Michigan. He has written for ESPNW, Flohockey, Flint, Michigan-based My City Magazine, the Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit Magazine and Troy, Michigan-based Oakland Press. He previously worked for the Flint Journal, Lapeer (Michigan) County Press and Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton, Michigan.