SportsMondayColumn: At Ohio State, Parris sets the stage
“Well, I obviously want to kill them every time. I want to win every single match, as a team. I want to blow them out and sweep them.”
I was once told you should never start a story with a quote, but I’m pretty sure I can’t convey the Michigan wrestling team’s feelings for Ohio State better than those words from Mason Parris.
Maybe those feelings came from the No. 6 Wolverines’ ranking, which puts them four spots behind the Buckeyes despite having one extra win on their record, or maybe they come from a deep-set rivalry. Either way, Michigan rode that mentality to a 19-17 win over Ohio State — one where the Wolverines collected the winning points of an upset in the last match of the night.
Parris won a 6-3 decision in the final bout to overcome the Buckeyes’ one-point lead, sealing the victory to leave Michigan undefeated. Back in November, the freshman had his redshirt pulled prior to a meet against Oregon State which put him up against the No. 1-ranked heavyweight, Amar Dhesi, in his first meet competing attached to Michigan.
Parris won that match, 11-4.
That victory capped off a 33-8 win over the Beavers, which pretty much represents the majority of Michigan’s 8-0 record prior to Friday’s meeting with the Buckeyes. In half of those meets, the Wolverines scored at least 30 points, with their smallest margin of victory being a 21-13 win over Lehigh in November.
That win was just one of eight showcasing Michigan’s potential with a new head coach and a lot of big names on its roster. But Friday against Ohio State, that same team proved just how far that potential could go.
The Buckeyes are ranked second in the nation, only behind reigning national champion Penn State. They have a trio of undefeated seniors in Joey McKenna, Myles Martin and Kollin Moore, who are now a combined 36-0 and helped Ohio State to a Big Ten title last season. They’ve also got six top-10 wrestlers in different weight classes, while the Wolverines have five including Parris, who entered the weekend at seventh among heavyweights.
So, needless to say, Friday’s matchup wasn’t exactly expected to be an easy runthrough, though it started off seeming that way. Sophomore Drew Mattin kicked off the meet with a three-point decision, thanks to a 12-6 win over Malik Heinselman.
Right after that came arguably the best match of the night, when top-ranked redshirt junior Stevan Micic notched a 14-1 major over No. 6 Luke Pletcher for his ninth win of the season.
“I think when you just look at matchups, obviously probably two of the higher-ranked guys wrestling each other were Stevan Micic and Luke Pletcher,” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “And Stevan just came out with his offense flying and he really just dismantled the kid.”
But Ohio State was ranked second for a reason and by the time the last bout rolled around, the Buckeyes led by a single point, leaving the deciding match to the heavyweights — Parris and freshman Chase Singletary.
Back in November, Singletary issued Parris one of his three losses of the season with a 15-9 decision at the Ohio Intercollegiate Open. This time around, Parris was quick to take advantage — he scored the first takedown, then the second, and with a reversal in the third period, he put the score at 6-3, proving the Wolverines’ capabilities with a 19-17 upset.
“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought dual from top to bottom,” Bormet said. “We knew it was going to come down to bonus points in some of those weights, us getting bonus points and trying to prevent them from getting bonus points.
“We thought if that played out, that it would come down to heavyweight, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in Mason Parris. He’s a great competitor and he did an awesome job sealing the victory for us.”
For a program that was ranked sixth nationally with an 8-0 record, the win over Ohio State was big. It proved that the names on Michigan’s roster carry weight, and they’ve got potential to make the program a contender for a Big Ten title.
But that two-point win over the No. 2 program prefaces an even bigger, flashier obstacle just five days away — No. 1 Penn State.
The Nittany Lions will have had a tight hold on the top spot when they host the Wolverines on Friday, highlighted by a 54-dual win streak, 32 of which are within conference confines. That streak dates back all the way back until Feb. 15, 2015.
That being said, Michigan enters the matchup having already proven itself to have national contender potential. Now it’s time to see if it can defy expectations as well.