- James Coller/Daily
By Ben Fidelman, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 16, 2013
Central Michigan fans were still cheering over their victory at 141-pounds to tie the match at six as fifth-year senior Eric Grajales made his way to the center of the mat.
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Before Sunday’s duel, the Michigan wrestling coaching staff reminded Grajales Sunday’s match would be his last time facing Central Michigan — the team’s biggest in-state rival. When the 149-pound bout arrived, he made sure not to forget that.
Grajales earned an early two-point takedown, followed by a near fall, to shift the momentum back in Michigan’s favor.
The physicality continued through the second period, as Grajales, who is ranked No. 7 in the weight class, sealed the victory by earning a fall with nine seconds remaining.
“My biggest thing was starting off fast,” Grajales said. “I wanted to come out fast and hard and not give them any room to breathe.”
Immediately after the signal, Grajales popped up with vigor and screamed at the Michigan bench, pumping his fist with excitement. The 19th-ranked Wolverines responded to their leader’s call as they took six of the next seven matches en route to 30-9 win over the Chippewas.
“We knew Eric was capable of pinning that guy,” said Michigan assistant coach Sean Bormet. “He did a good job at getting after him. Softened him up in a few positions and went for the pin, and did a nice job.”
Redshirt junior Jake Salazar was next to the mat for the 157-pound weight class matchup, which rivaled Grajales’s for the most exciting of the day. In another physical bout, and went in to the third period with Central Michigan up 1-0.
With 40 seconds left in regulation Salazar scored a two-point takedown to swing into victory, only to be cut short by an escape by the Chippewas with less than 30 seconds to go, resulting in a 2-2 tie, sending the match to overtime.
Just 26 seconds into the sudden-death period, Salazar grasped onto his opponent’s legs and drove him into the mat for the match-ending two-point takedown.
“We were familiar with Jake’s opponent, and we knew he was capable of stepping up and beating him,” Bormet said. “Jake really dug in deep, and that was a big win to keep the momentum rolling from Eric’s match.”
Redshirt freshman Conner Youtsey started the duel with a forfeit victory, as Central Michigan (5-4) failed to weigh in a competitor in the 125-pound weight class, and Michigan (3-2) carried a 6-0 lead into the first match to be played.
Next up were the 133- and 141-pound matches, where sophomore Rossi Bruno and redshirt freshman Angelo Latora proceeded to lose by a combined score of 20-8, allowing the Chippewas to climb back into the duel with the score set at 6-6 after three matches.
Though the Wolverines depth proved to be too great for Central Michigan, the loss of senior captain Max Huntley — who tore a tendon in his pectoral muscle and will be out for the rest of the season — and freshman Brian Murphy threw off the lineup.
But leaders like Grajales filled in nicely to give Michigan some much needed confidence before the Big Ten schedule begins in January.