In the year and a half since the former three-sport athlete honed in on purely wrestling, he’s qualified for the NCAA championships and racked up a freestyle title as part of the USA Junior World Team. If Michigan sophomore heavyweight Mason Parris didn’t inspire and compel his teammates on the basis of his imposing size alone, his resume did the trick.

“It’s a really good honor for me to take the guys under the wing,” Parris said.

Last Friday and Saturday, Parris moved the team from his wings to his back at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. His first-place finish was one of two podium results for the Wolverines — the other an eighth-place finish from redshirt sophomore Jelani Embree in the 184-pound category — and was responsible for virtually all of Michigan’s 37.5 points, good for 16th place out of a 32-team field.

Parris was the No. 1 seed for his weight class, but downplayed the importance of that number or any pressure it put him under.

“The seeding doesn’t really matter too much, but I was glad to be ranked there,” Parris said. “… I’ve always had a target on my back, so it really wasn’t like too much pressure on me or anything.”

The numbers that did matter spoke for themselves. Parris posted a 5-0 record in his bouts, winning the first and third with pins and the second with a major decision. 

“It was a good feeling to win my first match pretty quick, to put the guy away fast because I knew it was gonna be a long weekend,” Parris said. “So I was trying to … conserve all of my energy.”

The last two bouts, each against a top-15 individual opponent, were far more even than the preceding three. In the final, Parris earned a 6-3 decision over Arizona State’s Tanner Hall thanks to his mental preparation.

“I just made a few adjustments before my match,” Parris said. “I was confident in myself, I was visualizing myself winning, and then I went out there and I wrestled well and beat the guy.”

Michigan coach Sean Bormet expressed his pride in Parris’ performance, especially in the final bout. 

“In his finals match he made a couple of really good adjustments mid-match with his riding position on top and it made a difference,” Bormet said. “He scored a lot of points, got a lot of bonus points for the team…just a winning style of wrestling.”

That winning style was not emulated as successfully by the rest of the team, a unit that sent just three of seven Wolverines to the second day of competition. That’s not to say that the group lacked bright spots. Freshman Cole Mattin reached the quarterfinals of the 141-pound bracket and battled top-seeded Luke Pletchler, out of Ohio State, 40 seconds shy of a complete bout before being handed a defeat by major decision. Ninth-seeded Embree won his first consolation bout but lasted just 30 seconds into the subsequent match before sustaining an ankle injury. 

Bormet aims to take advantage of the multi-week break before Michigan’s next competition, prioritizing development as well as rest for those who are banged up. While the Wolverines’ trip to Las Vegas proves they are still under Mason Parris’ wings, Bormet hopes a few weeks of work will allow the rest of the team to fly just as high. 

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