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'M' Wrestling knocks off rival Buckeyes and Indiana

BY DANIEL WASSERMAN
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 30, 2011

It seems that every weekend someone different steps up for the Michigan wrestling team.

This weekend was no different, as junior Zac Stevens and sophomore Sean Boyle led the Wolverines to two victories.

After wins at Ohio State on Friday and Indiana on Sunday, No. 13 Michigan (4-0 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) is riding a wave of momentum, having won seven of its last eight dual meets.

“No question about it, the guys are wrestling with a lot of confidence,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “They came really focused and I thought it was a good weekend. Anytime you go on the road and get two wins, we’re pleased with it.”

Friday’s match was one circled on the Wolverines’ calendar for a long time. And after two straight losses to the Buckeyes, Michigan let out two years of frustration in Columbus, pummeling its archrivals, 27-9.

But for a while things looked bleak for the Wolverines. The Buckeyes (1-3, 2-7) started hot, winning their first two matches.

“The thing I was upset about in those matches we lost was things I’ve told those guys from day one,” McFarland said. “They didn’t apply some of things we’ve been talking about and working on, and it cost us some matches. But we battled back.”

Michigan quickly pulled the momentum out of the grasp of the Buckeyes and their fans, which were initially raucous.

No. 11 senior Anthony Biondo got things rolling for Michigan and eighth-ranked sophomore Ben Apland followed suit with a pin — pulling the score to 9-6 in favor of the Wolverines. And they wouldn’t look back.

Sophomore Sean Boyle, Stevens, top-ranked junior Kellen Russell, freshman Eric Grajales and freshman Brandon Zeerip combined to form a seven-match win streak for Michigan.

“It was good to go down to their place and beat them pretty bad,” Stevens said. “After my match, the crowd was pretty out of it. They were expecting a win against me, so it helped take the momentum out of it.”

Stevens’s match came against 17th-ranked Ian Paddock. Stevens controlled much of the match and won easily, 10-3.

“It didn’t really feel like it was an upset,” Stevens said. “I wrestled a complete match, seven minutes, and good things happen when you do that.”

The match was especially interesting for the Zeerip family. Brandon, who grew up a Buckeye fan, won in front of several family members who typically pledge their allegiance for Ohio State.

After trailing much of the match, Zeerip used a cradle roll to win in the final 15 seconds.

“I was pretty pumped,” Zeerip said. “It was really cool to be able to wrestle in front of all of my family. I was just excited that I could come up with the win.”

On Sunday, the Wolverines wouldn’t give Indiana (0-4, 10-5) the luxury of a slow start. Boyle and Stevens set the tone early for Michigan, which won seven of its first eight matches to win 23-9.

“Sean did a great job at starting us off,” McFarland said. “I was really, really pleased with his wrestling. We needed to get that first win out of the way. He’s been listening to what we’ve been working on with him. And (Sunday) I thought Zac did a really good job at wrestling through (an injured ankle).”

Boyle used several takedowns in his 9-1 win, which gained a bonus point for the Wolverines. Stevens then overcame an early deficit, fighting back to win 8-5.

Russell used four takedowns to win in a major decision, 10-1, which also gained a bonus point. His two wins on the weekend extended his win streak to 27.

Brandon Zeerip, freshman Dan Yates, junior Justin Zeerip and sophomore Hunter Collins completed the Wolverines string of victories.

Michigan would drop the final two matches, but the meet was already out of hand.

It would’ve been easy for the Wolverines to look past this weekend’s competition and turn their attention to next weekend. They travel to Madison to take on No. 4 Wisconsin before coming home to face No. 1 Penn State on Sunday.

But despite being facing two Big Ten bottom-feeders this past weekend, McFarland was pleased to see a focused team.

“These guys have been really good about (not looking ahead),” McFarland said. “They’ve been really good about not overlooking anybody. It was a good win, great team effort and, all in all, everyone wrestled hard.”