By Max Cohen, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 31, 2012
With the hours left in 2012, the Michigan wrestling team had a chance to set some early resolutions. Although the 12th-ranked Wolverines were disappointed with their eighth-place finish at the Midlands Championships in Evanston, the tournament provided the team with valuable experience against top competition heading into the Big Ten portion of the schedule. Of the 32 teams that competed in the tournament, 15 were ranked in the most recent NWCA Top-25 poll.
“This sets the bar for us of the level of where we need to be,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “With the level of competition we saw, we’re not where we need to be.”
The Wolverines had four individual wrestlers place in the tournament, led by fifth-year senior Ben Apland who finished in fourth place in his weight class. Apland entered the competition as the 11th seed in the heavyweight competition and earned a major decision over ninth-seeded Eric Thompson of Grand View as well as two medical forfeits over other opponents to earn the fourth-place finish.
Redshirt junior Eric Grajales placed sixth for Michigan in the 149-pound weight class, winning his first two consolation matches on the final day of the tournament before losing his last two. Coming in as the sixth seed, Grajales lost the fifth-place match to fifth seed Nick Lester of Oklahoma on a major decision.
Redshirt junior Dan Yates also placed sixth in his 174-pound weight class competition. Yates lost his first match of the season in the semifinals of the tournament, falling to ninth seed Nick Brown of Lehigh by way of a 5-2 decision. The fourth-seeded Yates lost his consolation match due to an injury sustained late in the second period.
Freshman Taylor Massa came in as the ninth seed in the 165-pound weight class and was the only Wolverine to win his final match of the day, pinning 11th seed Ramon Santiago of Rider in just 31 seconds to earn seventh place. As a freshman, Massa thinks the experience of wrestling in another elite tournament will be helpful to the development of the team.
“This really helps you get ready for the Big Ten season,” Massa said. “You have to wrestle many Big Ten (quality) guys.”
McFarland looks for the team to continue to develop the toughness he believes it needs to succeed later on in the season.
“You’ve got to fight through the pain,” McFarland said. “That’s the difference right now with a few of our guys.”
With the toughest part of the team’s schedule in front of them, McFarland believes the team is a work in progress. If his team develops the toughness he thinks it needs, both McFarland and his wrestlers believe that it can succeed later on.
“We’re going to be a team that explodes on you at the end of the season, and that’s when it really counts,” Massa said.