MAC Championships Preview: 165-285

MAC Championships Preview: 165-285

Central Michigan's Matt Stencel goes for history at MAC Championships

Feb 26, 2021 by Mark Spezia

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In more than six decades of Mid-American Conference wrestling, there have been only eight four-time champions.

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In more than six decades of Mid-American Conference wrestling, there have been only eight four-time champions.

Central Michigan's Matt Stencel could be the ninth come Saturday evening when this year's MAC Tournament concludes. Rider University hosts the spectator-free event Friday and Saturday at CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton, New Jersey.

Stencel is strongly favored to rule the 285-pound weight class once more. 

Northern Illinois' Brit Wilson (184) and Clarion's Greg Bulsak (197) are also among seven defending champions. 

A true freshman, Missouri's Keegan O'Toole, has established himself as the MAC's top 165-pounder. Winning his weight class would also help the Tigers in their quest for a ninth straight team title.

Here is a closer look at the five upper weights in part two of a MAC Tournament preview:


Ranked wrestlers: #19 Keegan O'Toole, #20 Izzak Olejnik

Outlook: O'Toole, the Class of 2020's No. 2 recruit, has proven more than good as advertised. 

He is 9-0 with seven wins coming via technical fall (four) or pin (three). O'Toole handled Olejnik his only loss of the season, 5-1. O'Toole, a four-time Wisconsin state champion, is also No. 12 in the latest NCAA coaches rankings.

Others he has knocked off this season include Wyoming's Cole Moody, also a three-time Wyoming state qualifier, and South Dakota State's Cade DeVos and Iowa State's Grant Stotts. DeVos and Stotts are both two-time Iowa state titlists. 

Olejnik, a sophomore, fell to now-graduated Troy Keller of Buffalo in last year's title match. He his 10-1 and 19th in the NCAA coaches rankings. Olejnik, a 2020 NCAA qualifier, has not beaten any ranked opponents this season. 


Ranked wrestlers: #9 Andrew McNally (Kent State), # 11 Peyton Mocco (Missouri), #16 Mason Kauffman (Northern Illinois)

Outlook: This weight class is also guaranteed to crown a new champion with the graduation of last year's surprise winner, Jared Siegrist (Lock Haven).

McNally, a senior, is eager to stand atop the podium this time after falling to Siegrist in the 2020 title match. He dropped a heart-wrenching, 10-9 decision in the final seconds.

McNally, a two-time NCAA qualifier, is 6-1 with his only loss coming by injury default. He owns one major decision. McNally has also bested Kauffman (6-2) and Edinboro's Jacob Oliver (7-6). Both are also two-time NCAA qualifiers. 

McNally, No. 11 in the NCAA coaches rankings, was also second in the 2019 MAC tourney and fifth in 2018. His career record stands at 88-33, including 37-8 the past two seasons. 

Mocco, sophomore, is 9-0 with a pin and major decision. He has beaten Kauffman (2-1) and No. 20 Lance Runyon (Northern Iowa), 9-6. Mocco was third in the MAC last season.

Kauffman, a junior, is 18th in the latest coaches rankings and has a 9-2 record. His biggest win has been a 4-3 decision over Runyon. Kauffman did not place in the MAC tourney last season and was seventh in 2019. 


Ranked wrestlers: #13 Jeremiah Kent (Missouri), #18 Brit Wilson (Northern Illinois), #25 George Walton (Rider).

Outlook: Wilson, a junior, is 10-1 this season with the loss coming at the hands of No. 5 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa). Wilson, a two-time NCAA qualifier, has three pins, two major decisions and a technical fall among his wins, but has not beaten ranked wrestler this season.

Wilson, 15th in the NCAA coaches rankings, has a 57-11 career mark, including 32-4 the past two seasons. 

Wilson has never faced Kent, who moved from 174 to 184 this season to replace graduated two-time NCAA qualifier Dylan Wisman.

Kent, a sophomore, is 7-0, including three pins and a technical fall. His biggest victory has come against No. 7 Tate Samuelson, a 6-4 decision. Samuelson is a two-time NCAA qualifier. Kent has not wrestled since Jan. 17, but will return for the MAC Tournament. 

Walton, a senior, is 4-1 this season. He was fourth in the MAC last year and is No. 25th in the NCAA coaches rankings. 


Ranked wrestlers: #11 Greg Bulsak (Clarion), #23 Rocky Elam

Outlook: Bulsak's overall winning streak has reached 24 straight matches dating back to last season. The senior is 7-0 this season with three pins and a major decision.

Bulsak, a three-time NCAA qualifier, was also second in the Eastern Wrestling League as a sophomore. His career record stands at 72-22. Bulsak is ninth in the NCAA coaches rankings. 

Elam, one of Missouri's two true freshman starters, is also unbeaten (7-0) and presents a strong obstacle Bulsak must overcome to repeat. Elam has two pins, a technical fall and major decision. 

His most impressive performance so far came against sixth-ranked Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming, a 2020 NCAA qualifier and two-time Wisconsin state champion. Elam, 13th in the NCAA coaches rankings, won by injury default and was leading 3-1 at the time.

Elam overcame NCAA qualifier and two-year starter Wyatt Koelling, who owns a 66-31 career record, for the starting role. Koelling was 24th in last season's final rankings. 


Ranked wrestlers: #4 Matt Stencel (Central Michigan), #8 Zach Elam (Missouri), #10 Ethan Laird (Rider)

Outlook: Stencel, the reigning MAC Wrestler of the Year, is 7-0 this season, including a pin and major decision, and has won 21 straight matches dating back to last season.

He's on the cusp of becoming Central's third four-time MAC Champion. Others in that exclusive club are Wynn Michalak (2005-08) and Ben Bennett (2010-13). 

The three-time NCAA qualifier and 2019 All-American knocked off both Elam (4-1) and 15th-ranked Brian Andrews of Wyoming (7-1) on the same day (Jan. 8). Elam reached the NCAA Championships round of 12 in 2019 while Andrews is a two-time NCAA qualifier.

Stencel, who has not lost to a conference foe since Feb. 11, 2018, boasts a 96-27 career record, including 51 pins. 

Elam, a junior, has gone 6-3 with two pins against brutal competition. He has faced five opponents ranked among the top 21 in the nation and is 2-3 in those matches. 

Elam has decisioned Andrews (2-0) and pinned No. 21 Brandon Metz (North Dakota State), a 2020 NCAA qualifier. Elam has only lost to wrestlers ranked among the top seven in the nation, including a narrow (3-2) loss to seventh-ranked Carter Isley (Northern Iowa).

Elam was third in the MAC in 2019 before taking an Olympic redshirt last season.

As always, Laird will be a tough out for anyone.

He moved up to 285 this season after three years at 197 which included two NCAA Championships berths and a round of 16 appearance in 2019.

Laird is 6-0 with two technical falls and two major decisions. He heads into the MAC Championships with the momentum of a huge, 8-5 win over 11th-ranked Jordan Wood (Lehigh), a three-time NCAA qualifier who finished fourth at the 2019 NCAA Championships.

Laird was second in the MAC last season after winning an EWL title in 2019  and finishing second in 2018.