For 197-pound fifth-year senior Jackson Striggow and sophomore heavyweight Mason Parris, there was no shortage of opportunity for leadership in Michigan wrestling’s first dual meet of the season. Against No. 17 North Carolina, the Wolverines’ two new captains wrestled in the final two matches of the meet with Michigan looking to make up an eight-point deficit in team points.

Despite the two notching wins in their individual matches, a familiar theme plagued them and the rest of the team the whole meet — a lack of bonus points. The captains’ two regular-decision victories totaled to six points and the Wolverines lost the dual, 19-17. 

Michigan split the dual’s 10 individual matches with the Tar Heels, giving each side five victories on the night and requiring the dual to come down to bonus points. The Wolverines’ inability to win individual matches by more than eight points, and thus earn bonus team points for a major-decision (four team points), technical fall (five team points for winning by 15), or fall (six team points for pinning both opponents’ shoulders), was a consistent theme. Just 125-pound freshman Jack Medley and 184-pound redshirt sophomore Jelani Embree secured major-decisions.

“Tonight we had a couple opportunities (to score bonus points),” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “Even (with) match point awareness, where we need to cut a guy to get an extra takedown to get a major. We’re yelling from the bench and guys just didn’t have enough awareness to know what the score was and what the situation was, so that’s something we gotta stay on them about.”

With a significant comeback necessary to make a Wolverine win possible, the final two North Carolina wrestlers only had to limit Striggow and Parris from running up a high score. The captains won their matches, but the Tar Heel wrestlers’ defensive tactics and ability to stay off their backs made adding any additional points too difficult. Though they were unable to score bonus points, the way Striggow and Parris wrestled proved to still be a positive in their first meet in a new role.

“I think Jackson (Striggow) set the tone early in that match and he wrestled really well in all three positions,” Bormet said. “Same with Mason Parris. Mason had a tough job. He knew he had to try to get a pin in order for the team to win. The North Carolina guy, his main job was to stay off his back.”

Despite being unable to lead his team in acquiring bonus points, Parris found other ways to set an example. During the first period of his match, he recoiled and stood upright after lunging at the legs of his opponent. Holding up his left hand to look for the source of his pain, one finger was dislocated and bent in an unnatural position.

“I’ve stubbed that finger so many times,” Parris said. “The first time I hurt it was like fourth grade. When I saw it, it was unbelievable. It was in like a zig-zag (shape). I was kind of surprised by it, but then the trainer just popped it right back in and I could move it just fine right away. So then I was ready to wrestle again.”

Parris re-entered the match with the score still locked at zero and was able to score by escape and takedown in the third period. 

Striggow and Parris were named captains after practice during the week. And even though the coaching staff told them not to change anything they were doing, Striggow still feels like there are ways he can improve as a leader. 

“Try to be a little more vocal, I think,” Striggow said. “With all these guys redshirting, they’ve been the more vocal ones and so there’s definitely a void. They’re still around and working out with us, but just at the duals where they’re not around, there’s a void that needs to be filled.”

The Wolverines’ stellar 13-1 record in dual meets last season was largely due to their ability to rack up bonus points by winning individual matches by a large margin. If there was any question for the new captains about what to emphasize when taking up their new leadership role, they now have an answer.

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