Stevan Micic has been a force to be reckoned with for the No. 4 Michigan wrestling team this season.
Prior to Sunday’s match against Northwestern, the redshirt junior was ranked No. 1 in the nation at 133 pounds, with a 10-0 record on the season. Micic has only gotten more dominant as the season has gone on, earning bonus points in seven consecutive matches and beating ranked opponents in three of his last five.
The Wildcats, though, brought Micic a challenge that tested his versatility. Rather than having someone from the same weight class face Micic, Northwestern coach Matt Storniolo decided to bump first-ranked redshirt sophomore Sebastian Rivera from 125 pounds up to 133 pounds, in an attempt to counter Micic’s skill. He wasn’t fazed.
“I treat every opponent the same way,” Micic said. “Obviously you’ve gotta have some gameplan, a little, but it’s hard, and you’re going to have to stick to your own way of wrestling. That’s most important.”
While this change in Northwestern’s lineup set up a battle of stars, Micic took down Rivera twice in the first period to take a 4-1 lead and never looked back. He would go on to log two more takedowns and 3:20 of riding time to earn a convincing 10-4 win.
The key for Micic was not straying too far from his style of wrestling, because when he is using his style, he’s hard to beat. Micic moved his feet and brought the match to a tempo that he felt comfortable, and from there, he got to his leg attacks and scored points.
“I was able to really keep moving and I was really able to be offensive,” Micic said. “My leg attacks and my finishes were really clean and I finished pretty awesome.”
Added Michigan coach Sean Bormet: “Stevan had to mentally make a quick adjustment. It was a different opponent than he thought and I thought he did an outstanding job just being composed, wrestling the way he always does, getting to his offense. … he really dominated that match.”
As Bormet said, what made Micic’s win even more impressive was that he didn’t know he would be facing Rivera until right before the match. Northwestern’s usual 133-pound wrestler is unranked, and as sophomore Reece Hughes said, there are many changes in the style of play when facing someone in a different weight class. It was a test for Micic that he hadn’t seen before.
“I’m really glad Northwestern bumped Rivera because that’s just gonna help Stevan also prepare for next weekend,” Bormet said. “Tougher match, and it was great (for him).”
While Micic didn’t win any bonus points, which has been the standard for him since the start of 2019, this may have been his most important win of the season so far. In beating Rivera, he effectively proved that he can make the adjustments to overcome any challenge that comes his way.