It’s a moment Michigan coach Sean Bormet always talks about: being the guy to decide the match. The one with the weight of the team on your shoulders. It’s usually the heavyweights. The 125-pound duals get the match started off on the right foot, then sit back and watch their teammates try and pull out a victory.
But Friday night, on the road against No. 15 Northwestern (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big Ten), 125-pound redshirt sophomore Jack Medley found himself competing in the final bout of the night with the score tied at 17.
“I think Jack enjoyed the moment and enjoyed the opportunity,” Bormet said. “… I turned around on the bench to check with each guy before they step on the mat. I could see he was excited and eager for the moment to be the last guy to wrestle and decide the team dual victory.”
The Wildcats won the coin toss and strategically started the dual with the 133-pound bout in hopes that the fate of the dual would come down to the 125-bout. Their wish was granted, but it was Medley and the No. 25 Michigan wrestling team (5-3, 4-1) that pulled off the upset road victory, 20-17, over Northwestern.
Medley faced sixth-ranked Michael DeAugustino with the dual on the line. The score was tied after the first period, with neither wrestler finding the opportunity for a takedown. DeAugustino scored an escape point to take the lead in the second period, but Medley quickly evened the score with an escape of his own to start the third, and final, period.
With 1:24 left in the third period, Medley scored a takedown, putting him up, 3-1, which would ultimately be the deciding factor in the match and meet. With under one minute left, DeAugustino needed a takedown for the comeback victory.
“The last 15 seconds I told myself, ‘Stay smart don’t back up and get a stalling call’ cause I had a stalling call against me, so that would have given him a point,” Medley said.
Though he scored an escape point, Medley miraculously avoided a takedown with just nine seconds left to clinch the bout. Medley won, 3-2, securing an upset victory for himself and a 20-17 win for his team.
“He’s a guy that’s a tireless worker and we as a staff and as a team have a ton of confidence in Jack,” Bormet said.
Competing in an unusual spot in the lineup and wrestling a highly-ranked opponent did not faze Medley and was a challenge he fully embraced.
“They definitely had a strategy of having our match as the last match to give their other guy some more recovery time,” Medley said. “But it didn’t matter.”
The Wolverines began the match strong, winning the first three bouts in dominant fashion to give Michigan a 12-0 lead. 133-pound fifth-year senior Austin Assad set the tone from the onset with a 10-0 major decision.
However, inconsistency in the middleweights, which has plagued the Wolverines throughout the season, caused the outcome of the dual to be in doubt. After a hot start, Michigan lost five straight bouts in the 157, 165, 174, 184 and 197 weight classes.
“I think we need to be consistent in how we think and in how we wrestle,” Bormet said. “There were a couple of matches that we lost our composure and we didn’t refocus the way we needed to.”
The Wildcats turned a 12-point deficit into a 14-12 lead after 11th-ranked, 184-pound redshirt sophomore Jelani Embree fell to Northwestern’s Jack Jessen. Embree took a 2-1 lead after the first period, but was taken down in the second period and never recovered. Jessen won the decision, 7-6, and, more importantly, stole the lead and momentum from the Wolverines.
“I think (Embree) was really capable of scoring with his speed and some leg attacks,” Bormet said. “He kinda got caught up wrestling some upper body positions that he is pretty good it but its just positions that he didn’t need to wrestle in.”
Sophomore and No. 2 heavyweight wrestler Mason Parris brought consistency back to the team as he dominated his bought.
Parris’ 20-5 win, including a technical fall and bonus points, proved instrumental in a victory that provided momentum and confidence to the wrestlers.
“I think this team is still learning a lot but we are starting to come together,” Medley said. “I think a lot of our guys are starting to believe in themselves.”