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'M' wrestlers drop two in Big Ten opening weekend

BY LUKE PASCH
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 24, 2010

The Cliff Keen Arena speakers played “The Victors” on just two occasions this weekend.

Aside from individual victories for Michigan redshirt sophomore Dave Johnson and redshirt junior Anthony Biondo on Saturday night, there was nothing to cheer for during the wrestling team’s Big Ten opening weekend. Conference foes overpowered Michigan, as No. 1 Iowa completed its fifth shutout of the season, and No. 5 Minnesota cruised to a 30-6 victory.

As frustrating as it was for fans to watch their team get embarrassed on the mats, nobody was more frustrated than Michigan coach Joe Mcfarland.

“We knew that it was going to be a bit of a rebuilding year for us, but they need to understand the style that wins,” McFarland said. “That’s what I’m frustrated about right now.”

All season, McFarland has preached the two keys for success in Division I wrestling: aggressiveness and confidence. But both were seemingly missing from the matches this weekend. Michigan was on the defensive for the vast majority of the time, and the team relied heavily on escape points.

Wolverine takedown points were few and far between — the squad didn’t notch any until the fifth match on Friday when Johnson took down Iowa’s Aaron Janssen in the second round.

But Johnson was one of the few Michigan wrestlers to be the aggressor of his matches this weekend, as he won in a wild come-from-behind overtime effort on Saturday. At the start of the one-minute sudden-death period, Johnson dove for his opponent’s legs and scrambled for control for nearly 60 seconds. He completed the takedown with seven ticks left on the clock.

“Well, it’s overtime, so we’re both obviously tired,” Johnson said. “So, I wanted to get in on his legs before he got in on mine. Usually the aggressor in overtime is the winner.”

It was a rare rousing moment for Michigan fans.

On the bright side, for the Wolverines the end of Saturday’s match marked the start of an only-up-from-here philosophy for the team. The Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers were easily the toughest opponents of the 2009-10 season — they featured eight and five nationally ranked wrestlers, respectively, and the top-ranked wrestler in the 149-pound class, Iowa's Brent Metcalf.

The Wolverines don’t have another top-ten opponent on their schedule before the Big Ten championships in March. The team failed to prove themselves against tough competitors this weekend, but McFarland looks at it as a growing opportunity.

“We’re a work in progress,” McFarland said. “We look tentative out there. So, we’re going to continue to try and jam it home this week and see what we come up with.”


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