In the chaos amongst the multiple mats and crowds of people on the gym floor at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, redshirt junior Tyler Meisinger — wrestling at 165 pounds — ran amongst the crowd to his coaches and embraced them, with a grin stretching from ear to ear.
He had just qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Meisinger began the season as the backup at 157 pounds, but injuries to others forced him to wrestle up a weight class. He had struggled at times throughout the year, with a 9-12 record overall, but fought his way to a 2-3 record at the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, sealing eighth place and qualifying for the national tournament against all odds.
Michigan carried Meisinger’s mentality to a seventh overall finish in the tournament with 73 points, with eight wrestlers placing in the top eight spots, and six wrestlers qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
“He seized the moment and went and made it happen,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said. “He wrestled hard all weekend, moving up a weight class. He’s really competed well, fought through some really tough matches, and all those things prepared him to make the most of his opportunity.”
Sophomore Mason Parris, the No. 2-ranked heavyweight, led the Wolverines with a second place finish, picking up two wins along the way before falling to No. 1 Gable Steveson of Minnesota. It was his first matchup with Steveson this season, and ultimately his first loss of the year. Parris, the potential All-American, will look to bounce back in two weeks time at the NCAA Championships.
“Mason is a great competitor,” Bormet said. “He’s gonna have to wrestle one match at a time, but he competed well. There were a couple key positions that I am confident he will capitalize on next time they wrestle if they wrestle again.”
No. 17 Jack Medley, a redshirt sophomore, finished fourth at 125 pounds after going 3-2 in the tournament, while redshirt junior No. 8 Kanen Storr claimed fifth at 149 pounds after a victory in overtime in the fifth place match, and after going 3-2 in the tournament. Redshirt freshman No. 8 Will Lewan also took fifth at 157 pounds, and ended with a 3-2 record in the tournament as well. Jelani Embree placed eighth at 184 pounds after going 1-1 to guarantee top-eight placement before medically forfeiting out of the tournament to round out the wrestlers who automatically qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
“Placement-wise, I think it was ok,” Bormet said. “We gotta get a little more offensive going into the NCAA Tournament, but overall our guys did a good job.”
Redshirt senior Jackson Striggow placed seventh at 197 pounds with a 3-2 record, while redshirt freshman Joey Silva lost a heartbreaker at the last second to finish with a 2-3 record at 133 pounds and place eighth, missing automatically qualifying for the NCAA Tournament by just one spot.
Freshman 141-pounder Cole Mattin placed ninth with a 2-2 record, while redshirt freshman Max Maylor did not place with a 2-3 record.
“Our guys wrestled really hard this weekend,” Bormet said. “Tough conference, we overachieved at a couple weights, met our seeds at a couple weights, but overall it was a pretty good performance.”