Cunningham Named to MAC Hall of Fame

March 13, 2015

By Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - One of the all-time greats in Central Michigan athletics history has been elected to the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame.

Casey Cunningham, the only NCAA wrestling champion in CMU history, will be inducted into the prestigious hall as part of the Class of 2015.

The hall comprises 72 of the conference's greatest student-athletes, coaches and administrators, including iconic names in CMU athletic lore such as Herb Deromedi, Dave Keilitz, Dan Roundfield, Gary Hogeboom, Ted Kjolhede, Karen (Karner) Michalak and Charlie Coles.

Also a part of the 2015 class is Bob Parks (Eastern Michigan, men's cross country, men's track and field), Ben Roethlisberger (Miami, football), Gary Pinkel (Toledo/Kent State, football) and George Dales (Western Michigan, men's cross country, men's track and field).

Cunningham won the NCAA title at 157 pounds as a senior in 1999 after finishing runner-up the previous year. He remains the Chippewas' all-time leader in wins (134) and win percentage (.876, 134-19), was a three-time MAC champion, was twice named the MAC wrestler of the year, earned the outstanding wrestler award at the 1999 league championships, and was named the league's freshman wrestler of the year in '96.

Cunningham is one of nine MAC wrestlers to have won a national title.

"During my tenure here, he's the guy that really put our program on the map," said Tom Borrelli, who is in his 24th year as the Chippewas' coach. "When you think of Central Michigan wrestling in the time I've been coaching here, Casey Cunningham is the flag bearer.

"A two-time national finalist, a national champion, a fantastic assistant coach, and beyond that he's a very, very good ambassador for our program. As good as it gets."

Cunningham served as an assistant coach under Borrelli for seven years before joining coach Cael Sanderson at Iowa State for the 2008-09 season. The following year, Cunningham became the head assistant coach to Sanderson at Penn State, which next week will attempt to win its fifth consecutive national championship.

Cunningham was a four-time Charles "Chick" Sherwood Most Valuable Wrestler at CMU and ranks among the top 10 in school history in career pins (31) and single season victories (37).

He helped lead the Chippewas to MAC Tournament championships in 1998 and '99, and the regular-season MAC title in '98. With Cunningham finishing as the runner-up in '98, CMU finished fifth in the NCAA Championships, and his title in '99 helped the Chippewas to a seventh-place finish.

The fifth-place finish in '98 remains the best in CMU wrestling history.

In 2009, Cunningham was inducted into the Central Michigan University Marcy Weston Athletics Hall of Fame.

Cunningham went on to a very successful post-collegiate career on the mat, placing at the USA Olympic Trials in both 2004 and 2008. He also placed at the World Team Trials, National Championships, U.S. Nationals and U.S. Senior Nationals.

"Casey is the epitome of what you're looking for in a wrestler," Borrelli said. "He got as much out of his God-given ability as anyone we've ever had here. We haven't had anyone, ever, outwork him at anything."

Cunningham was CMU wrestling's first three-time Academic All-MAC selection, and he earned first team National Wrestling Coaches Association Academic All-America honors twice, and received honorable mention on two other occasions.
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