On a night marked by darkness, Michigan sophomore heavyweight Mason Parris brought fireworks.
As the Lawrenceburg, Ind. native strut onto the mat, the 22nd ranked Wolverines (6-4 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) were trailing, 27-3. The outcome of their dual with No. 1 Iowa (11-0, 8-0) was never in question, but fans had no intention of leaving. The last match was one they would not dare miss.
Locking eyes with the second-ranked and undefeated Parris was the equally-intimidating Tony Cassioppi. The Hawkeye wrestler entered the matchup as the nation’s third best heavyweight and undefeated, with seven wins against ranked opponents.
An added motivator for Parris was that his last high school loss came against Cassioppi at the 2018 Cadet National Championship Semifinals. That day, Cassioppi dominated from start to finish en route to a 12-2 victory.
Saturday’s match, Parris vowed to himself, would unfold completely differently.
“I was really excited to go out there,” Parris said. “I went out there with a lot of confidence.”
Parris started the match off with a bang, securing a quick single-leg takedown to jump out to a 2-0 lead. On his first attempt to roll Cassioppi onto his back, Parris overplayed his hand, and wound up on the wrong end of a Cassioppi reversal. Parris rapidly escaped but now led by only one.
Soon thereafter, Cassioppi re-engaged, seeking to build off the momentum from his recent reversal. His next shot was a deep high single, but a Parris whizzer enabled the sophomore to evade capture and secure two points for himself. Cassioppi escaped before the period closed, so the two heavyweights entered the second with Parris leading, 5-3.
Parris started down and was free from Cassioppi’s grasp by the 1:36 mark. In a case of déjà vu, Cassioppi found himself in on a high single, but once again was overpowered by Parris. In a flash, Parris saw his fortunes turn.
Rather than finding himself lying flat on the mat, Parris had Cassioppi’s shoulder blade exposed to the mat. A pin was in sight, but Parris knew he needed to stay patient.
“I was trying not to rush anything like I did on my first turn,” Parris said. “I was trying to stay cool and take my time.”
While his demeanor was calm, Parris’ strength was anything but. In fact, it wasn’t long before Parris ended the match with a flurry. In under a minute, he muscled the hulking Cassioppi flat onto his back and ended the match with a pin.
Unlike the last meeting, this bout belonged to Mason Parris. In a matchup of two of the nation’s best, Parris’s pin left no doubt of his superiority.
Added Michigan coach Sean Bormet, “Mason did an unbelievable job, just like we were confident he would.”
With the win, Parris raised his record to 23-0 this season. Fifteen of those wins have come with bonus points — five majors, one technical fall and nine falls — while nine have been against ranked opposition. Domination barely does his success justice.
“He’s been consumed with improving,” Bormet said. “He’s mentally locked in and there were a lot of fireworks out there tonight.”
On a night at Crisler Center that didn’t provide Wolverines fans with much to cheer for, Parris’ closing act was spectacular. In the course of dazzling those in attendance, the ever-improving Parris staked his claim to be considered the best heavyweight in the nation.