Sean Bormet saw the look on Mason Parris’ face and knew what was going to happen.
The Michigan wrestling team may have lost its last four bouts. It may have nearly blown a 16-point lead to Michigan State. But the Wolverines knew that in the moment, none of that mattered, because they had a cheat code the Spartans didn’t: sophomore heavyweight Mason Parris.
The look Bormet saw didn’t betray him. Parris got a takedown right off the bat. After 29 seconds he had his opponent pinned, a result that gave the Wolverines six points and sealed their 22-14 win over Michigan State on Friday night.
“I was pretty confident that Mason was capable of pinning him,” Bormet, the Michigan coach, said. “I didn’t know exactly how fast he would get there. But the minute he got the takedown and got those arm bars, I could see the look on his face and he was gonna turn the guy and pin him.”
This is par for the course for Parris, who is the third-ranked heavyweight in the country and has five pins in seven matches. But it’s less often he has a performance as vital as Friday’s.
Coming off a loss to Oregon State and two lackluster invitational finishes, the 25th-ranked Wolverines knew the opportunity they had kicking off the Big Ten season against the unranked Spartans. The start of the match reflected that, with Michigan taking the first five bouts and building a 16-0 lead.
But Michigan State mounted a comeback, taking the next four bouts — including a technical fall that sent the Spartans’ side of the arena into a frenzy. With only one bout remaining, the Wolverines’ lead had shrunk to two.
Many other heavyweights would’ve crumbled in that situation. But Parris embraced the pressure, stepped on the mat and did the deed.
“I just saw their whole bench, Michigan State’s bench just getting off and getting really rowdy and everything and I mean, props to them, but I kinda knew what was coming up next with Mason Parris,” freshman Cole Mattin said. “Whenever that guy steps on the mat, you know there’s definitely a probability of getting six points on the board for us and I knew that was coming, no matter what.”
There’s no one else Michigan would rather have in a close match, and there’s no environment in which Parris thrives more. From the moment Parris stepped on the mat, Bormet was excited — not just for his star wrestler, but for the Cliff Keen crowd, because he knew it was about to be on its feet cheering.
Parris approaches every match the same, he says, but he loves being the heavyweight, because it means his bout is always last. There’s always a possibility the match comes down to him.
“It’s a lot of good pressure on me and it helps me wrestle better,” Parris said. “ … I just kinda wanted to get the crowd pumped up and put an exclamation point on the dual win.”
So when Parris held his opponent’s shoulders to the mat after just 29 seconds, he lifted his arms up in response, getting the crowd loud as the fight song rang over the speakers. He flexed for the fans. He wanted an exclamation point, and boy, did he create one.
The Wolverines all saw it coming. But they enjoyed it just as much.
“I knew, especially who it was coming up next, Mason Parris, I kinda knew they didn’t really have a chance,” Mattin said. “I’m just being honest.
“Mason’s obviously very, very good. He’s super talented, he’s great at what he does, and he just went out and showed it.”