The usual complement of maize and blue on display in Cliff Keen Arena’s bleachers was diluted with green and white, a group whose raucous cheering filled the gym from the opening match.
But it was the home crowd who would cheer last and loudest, as the No. 25 Michigan wrestling team (2-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) weathered a late rally by Michigan State (4-3, 0-1) to topple their rival, 22-14.
The Wolverines wasted no time asserting themselves. In the first period alone, redshirt sophomore Jack Medley accrued over a minute of riding time on the Spartans’ Logan Griffin. Medley’s performance paved the way for a 13-4 major decision in the 125-pound weight class.
Medley’s teammates capitalized on his hot start, as 133-pound redshirt freshman Joey Silva made his season debut with a decision over Garrett Pepple. Thanks to the contributions of 10th ranked redshirt junior Kanen Storr and No. 15 redshirt freshman Will Lewan, Michigan exited the first half up, 16-0.
“For a guy (Silva) that hasn’t competed in quite a while, he had great composure in that match and managed positions really well,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said.
The Wolverines’ early successes were typified by the efforts of 141-pound freshman Cole Mattin. His patient probing of Matt Santos’ tendencies for two tense periods was rewarded with a lunging takedown aimed at Santos’ exposed legs.
“I knew that shot was there from the beginning, but I just didn’t take it yet,” Mattin said. “Whatever you can do to win, you’ve gotta do.”
Added Bormet: “We were getting the takedowns and building our riding time and taxing those guys on the bottom. We did a good job setting the offense, getting to our leg attacks and getting a lot of takedowns.”
The second half would not proceed nearly as smoothly for Bormet’s wrestlers — the team went on to drop four of the next five matches to Michigan State. The riding time advantage which had resulted in so many takedown opportunities disintegrated, forcing Michigan’s wrestlers to claw their way out of steep deficits.
In the 174-pound match between redshirt freshman Max Maylor and the Spartans’ Layne Malczewski, a flaw in Maylor’s technique compounded the freefall.
“He made one mistake in the position of his arm,” Bormet said. “If he doesn’t make that mistake and finishes that takedown, it’s a totally different match.”
As Michigan State’s Nick May slipped past redshirt senior Jackson Striggow for a hard-fought 5-2 decision — bringing his team within two points of the tying score — he waved to the Spartan supporters, who erupted in applause.
But the comeback fell short, as the Wolverines’ decorated heavyweight, sophomore Mason Parris, pinned Christian Rebottaro in 29 seconds, securing a 22-14 win for Michigan in dramatic fashion.
“I just wanted to get the crowd pumped and put an exclamation point on our dual win,” Parris said.
Although the Wolverines’ errors cut into their lead, they were not so significant as to derail their victory. The team’s strong start ensured as much, and the Michigan wrestlers denied the hostile elements of the crowd an opportunity to faze them.
“That’s the great thing about wrestling,” Bormet said. “We drown ourselves in adversity every day.”