Photo: Sam Janicki

Central Michigan fills coaching staff with familiar faces

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- Central Michigan kept it in the family when it named Ben Bennett its wrestling coach.

Bennett is following suit in his choice of assistants, retaining Colin Heffernan and promoting Matt Stencel to those posts.

"They understand the program, what it's about, the culture of the program," said Bennett, who in April was named to succeed legendary Tom Borrelli to lead the storied program. "They know the guys on the team, they helped recruit some of the guys on the team and so there's familiarity there and comfort there and that's really important. Having those guys makes it a smooth transition."

Bennett served as an assistant under Borrelli for 11 seasons beginning in 2013-14 and coached both Heffernan and Stencel when those two wrestled for the Chippewas.

Heffernan, who wrestled at CMU from 2014-18, joined CMU's staff as an assistant in 2021. Stencel, who wrestled for the Chippewas from 2016-22, served for the past two seasons as a volunteer on Borrelli's staff.

"It's important to have guys on your staff that you trust, that you can work with, and that you can bounce ideas off of," said Bennett, 34. "I trust those guys, I feel good with those guys here and I know they're going to put their best foot forward and do what's best for the program.

"It's nice knowing that you have assistant coaches who share your vision and your values. The program is just as important to Colin and Matt as it is to me, and that means something."

Heffernan is a Cleveland native who prepped at St. Edward High School, one of the nation's premier high school wrestling programs, in suburban Lakewood. Stencel hails from Oregon, Ohio, and prepped at Clay High School.

"They both do a great job in the room coaching and I think both of them being from Ohio does help with recruiting," Bennett said. "Ohio's a great wrestling state and they both have strong ties and roots in Ohio."

Heffernan earned four letters while wrestling at both 149 and 157 pounds, compiling an 81-38 career record. He was a three-time NCAA Championships qualifier and was a two-time team captain.

He earned a bachelor of science degree with a major in political science from CMU and then a master's of coaching education from Ohio, where he served as an assistant coach.

Stencel, a heavyweight, won his record fifth Mid-American Conference championship in 2022 en route to earning the Outstanding Wrestler Award at that tournament.

He posted a 133-36 career mark as a Chippewa, including a 43-2 ledger against MAC foes. He won his final 37 consecutive league matches and recorded a program-high 77 pins in his six years, including a redshirt season in 2016-17 and a COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign. He ranks second in program history in victories.

He was a five-time NCAA Championships qualifier, a two-time All-American, and twice earned the MAC Wrestler of the Year Award, first in 2020 and again in 2022.