Underclassmen shine against Oregon State
It has been a month since the Michigan wrestling team last used its starters in a match. Yet on Thursday, the Wolverines’ top group had no problem picking up right where it left off.
Michigan hosted Oregon State in the first annual Joe Wells Classic, honoring former Michigan assistant coach and Oregon State head coach Joe Wells, who passed away last April.
The match showcased quickness from the 13th-ranked Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 5-1 overall), who overwhelmed the Beavers (0-0 Pac 12, 3-4 overall) en route to a 27-9 victory.
But the most significant takeaway from Thursday’s match was the performance of Michigan’s underclassmen: redshirt sophomore George Fisher, sophomore Alec Pantaleo, and redshirt freshman Davonte Mahomes.
Fisher had been fighting a near-even match against Oregon State’s Joey Palmer in the 133-pound match, but Fisher gained momentum after a late 3rd-round escape, eventually earning a takedown in an overtime round to win the match, 3-1.
At the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in early December, Pantaleo was only able to amass a slight 5-3 decision over the Beavers’ Joey Delgado. But on Thursday, Pantaleo dominated, beating Delgado handily in the 149-pound match, 18-3, to earn a major decision. Pantaleo finished with six takedowns and a near fall.
One of the youngest members on the team, Pantaleo dismisses the notion that age matters.
“With our team, there is no kind of age barrier,” Pantaleo said. “Whether it be Max (Huntley) being a fifth-year senior or me being a true sophomore, we all know that when we step on the mat, it doesn’t matter.”
Mahomes had a similar outlook.
“It’s a team, so everyone has to perform at that high level,” Mahomes said. “That has to happen to everyone no matter if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior.”
Mahomes handled Oregon State’s Tyler Chay with ease, winning 14-2 in what was his best match of the season. Mahomes tallied three takedowns and a four-point near fall. Mahomes nearly got the fall, but he ran out of time in the final round.
Junior Brian Murphy, who had the only pin of the night against Beaver wrestler Abraham Rodriguez in the 157-pound match, spoke highly of the underclassmen and their performances against the Beavers.
“We don’t think of them as underclassmen anymore,” Murphy said. “They’re so mature in their wrestling and everywhere else, so I don’t really notice it. I don’t think of them as underclassmen.”
If Fisher, Mahomes and Pantaleo can continue to perform like they did against the Beavers, the Wolverines may find themselves back in contention for a national championship.