It wasn’t the most difficult matchup of the season, but it did provide the No. 4 Michigan wrestling team (10-1 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) an important opportunity. Coming off their first loss of the season at top-ranked Penn State, it was time to see if the Wolverines could process a loss and respond. As Drew Mattin reminded everyone, they absolutely can.
By pinning Matthew Vinci at 4:04 into the match, the sophomore brought Michigan back to its winning ways in the team’s return to Cliff Keen Arena. The fall gave the Wolverines a lead they would never relinquish and Michigan shook off its first loss of the season, beating Northwestern (3-10 overall, 1-7 Big Ten) by the score of 30-9. The commanding win saw the Wolverines drop three matches — all by decision — while the seven victories included two decisions, three major decisions and two falls.
Prior to Mattin’s match, the dual got off to an eventful start as freshman Mason Parris wrestled the Wildcats’ Conan Jennings. Down 5-2 to start the match’s final period, Parris escaped from the bottom position quickly to narrow the deficit to two points. An aggressive late push by Parris tied the match at five with 20 seconds remaining, eliciting a roar from the packed Cliff Keen Arena crowd. It wouldn’t be enough, as Jennings earned a point from an escape and Parris’ late attempt at another takedown was unsuccessful upon video review.
In the 133-pound class, Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera was bumped up from the 125-pound category to compete with redshirt junior Stevan Micic. Both wrestlers are ranked atop their respective weight classes, and Rivera was bumped up moments before the match. But Micic had little trouble scoring and wrestled to a 10-4 decision regardless.
“I didn’t really get to have a reaction (to the change in opponent). I was already on the mat,” Micic said. “I literally just turned around and shook his hand and wrestled. I treat every opponent the same way. Obviously you’ve gotta have some game plan, a little, but it’s hard, and you’re going to have to stick to your own way of wrestling. That’s most important.”
Redshirt sophomore Kanen Storr followed Micic with a win by major decision to extend the Michigan lead to 13-3, but the Wolverines’ momentum was halted by Shayne Oster’s decision victory over fifth-year senior Malik Amine. Coming out of the intermission, Michigan’s lead decreased when Alec Pantaleo lost to Ryan Deakin. The loss would be the Wolverines’ last and the Wildcats’ score never rose above nine, as redshirt junior Logan Massa promptly won by major decision. Michigan never looked back en route to its victory.
In a meet full of impressive performances, though, sophomore Reece Hughes’ stands out among the rest. Wrestling above his weight, Hughes needed only 1:18 to earn six points and then pin his opponent to earn a fall. The Wolverines’ score subsequently vaulted to a seemingly insurmountable 23-9 margin.
“When you’re going up (in weight), the pace tends to be a little bit slower, so I can keep the pace higher for longer,” Hughes said. “Usually with bumping up, like I’ve done a few times this year, I have to wear down the dude a little bit more, but this time I got in, I got a smooth shot, and I could finish quick, and then just went to work on top.”
Redshirt freshman Jelani Embree and redshirt junior Jackson Striggow closed out the dual with a major decision and a decision, respectively. The four consecutive victories — including two major decisions and a pin — to finish the dual meet was a dominant end to a dominant performance by Michigan.
“We were a little concerned coming off two weekends — really big opponents, really big arenas — that guys might not have their intensity as high as they need it (today),” said coach Sean Bormet. “So we talked about that during the week and I think overall they did a good job and responded really well.”