When sophomore heavyweight Mason Parris dislocated his finger in the midst of his match, there was no doubt in his mind that it would not affect the rest of his wrestling. The crowd went silent as the trainer stepped onto the mat to reset the finger. Parris, after a quick flex of his fingers, was ready to wrestle again. It was a gruesome embodiment of the mentality the Michigan wrestling team has adopted early this season — effort and confidence.
But, in an up-and-down first dual meet against North Carolina, the Wolverines struggled to maintain this resiliency, losing 19-17. After a dominant performance from redshirt sophomore Jack Medley at 125-pounds, winning 10-2, the match-up leveled off, with the Tar Heels winning the next 2 matches.
“(Jack Medley) wrestled a kid who he maybe wasn’t supposed to beat, but he really took it to him, and I was impressed by that,” said 197-pound fifth year senior Jackson Striggow.
Things seemed to be looking up for Michigan when redshirt freshman Nick Freeman took the 149-pound match, gaining eight points from a near fall and two take-downs. However, his individual win couldn’t spur enough momentum for the Wolverines, especially since his match led into intermission, giving UNC a chance to re-group.
“It was definitely a match that we thought we were capable of winning, and again it goes back to wrestling hard all three periods and forcing your offense on an opponent,” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “(Freeman) is really capable of doing that. He kind of held off until the 3rd period.”
The Tar Heels came out of intermission strong, winning the next four individual matches. The most detrimental matchup for Michigan was the 174-pound match between redshirt freshman Max Maylor and UNC redshirt sophomore Clay Lautt. Lautt gained advantage quickly and executed a fall just two minutes and 20 seconds into the first period ending the match and giving the Tar Heels an extra six team points.
After two wins for the Wolverines from Jelani Embree and Jackson Striggow, it was left to Mason Parris to finish out the night, who faced UNC’s Andrew Gunning in the heavyweight match. Down by five team points, Parris would have to complete a fall in order to win the match. Parris fought hard, and won the match 4-0, with a takedown late in the third period, but it was not enough as Michigan fell two points short.
The Wolverines were also unable to capitalize on bonus points, something heavily emphasized by the coaching staff. They split the matches evenly with the Tar Heels, each team winning five, but the difference in team score was in bonus points.
“I think bonus points are always big,” Bormet said. “We’ve been working on that stuff a lot. We do have some younger guys in the lineup, and first-time guys competing at (Cliff) Keen Arena. I think as they continue to become more confident, more aggressive, we’re going to see more bonus points.”
While the dual result ended in a loss for Michigan, both players and coaches were hopeful for the rest of the season, ready to get back to practicing.
Ready to metaphorically reset the finger.