As Michigan’s Mason Parris mingled with a procession of young fans decked head-to-toe in maize and blue clamoring for his signature on their hats, t-shirts and posters, the sophomore heavyweight and team captain took a moment to reflect upon the hard fought win over Central Michigan’s Matt Stencel that sealed his team’s victory.
For Parris, as the successes accrue, so too do the responsibilities. Acutely aware of his rising profile, he doubles down on the habits that made him an elite wrestler, locker room leader and owner of a budding fanbase. Take it from his coach.
“Mason’s a great leader,” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “The style he wrestles is the style we like to see at all the weight classes, so I really like that we have a heavyweight that pours on the offense, that wants to score a lot of points and wants to put guys on their back and pin them. And that’s another reason he’s the captain.”
Parris’ example was not lost on his teammates. Freshman 141-pounder Cole Mattin’s gutsy come-from-behind win was his first at Cliff Keen Arena. Redshirt freshman 174-pounder Max Maylor also capped his home debut with a win, the first match of the meet in which a Michigan wrestler secured riding time advantage. But in an afternoon replete with star performances, Parris’ shone brightest.
“He dominated the action in that match,” Bormet said. “It didn’t result in a score until towards the end of the match, but all that work he did and all that action he created in the match led to that score.”
Parris, the No. 3 heavyweight in the country, is well-acquainted with his opponent, No. 7 Matt Stencel. Sunday marked the sixth meeting between the two. Parris now leads the series 4-2, but it was Stencel who eliminated him from the 2018-19 NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh.
“Wrestling him is always a really good rivalry,” Parris said. “He’s the one who put me out at NCAAs, so it’s definitely something I thought about all year round, just beating him. He’s the one who kind of stopped me from my goals last year, so I knew I had to give it my all every time I wrestle him, but I know it’s always gonna be a great match every time we go.”
In what the public address announcer called the “marquee match of the day,” Parris took to the mat with deafening applause. For much of the first period, Stencel and Parris, as all good wrestlers do, lunged at one another like bulls locking horns, each trying to size up the other. The period ended without a score, but the one who struck first would likely emerge the victor.
Parris is deceptively shifty for a heavyweight. In the second period, he slipped out from under Stencel’s grasp, earning a point on the escape. Stencel responded in kind, tying the match with an escape of his own. But Parris slammed the door shut in the waning seconds of the third period, pinning his foe to the ground, taking the match, 4-1.
Yet even in victory, Parris seeks improvement.
“I’m getting better each week moving my hands, moving my feet, getting to my attacks, and this week, just after that match, still working on that stuff and still finishing my takedowns,” Parris said. “I just know the guys look up to me, so I’ve always got to stay really good and just lead by example.”