By Ben Fidelman, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 19, 2015
Rossi Bruno is accustomed to dominating.
The junior was the first wrestler ever to win five Florida state championships in a high-school career, posting a 289-3 record along the way. He was selected as a Fargo All-American four times, and InterMat had him as the 13th-best wrestler in his class.
By all accounts, Bruno succeeded at dominating his high school wrestling career. But through three seasons at Michigan, his record is far less illustrious.
There were definite bright spots during his freshman season at Michigan, but the year as a whole didn’t live up to his standards. Those successes included a seventh-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, which allowed for a 2-2 result at the NCAA tournament — two wins away from earning All-American honors.
Bruno failed to stand out through much of the 2012-13 season, posting a 16-18 record. In the end, outside of the season-ending tournament success, it was a very unassuming campaign for an athlete who had been consistently unstoppable for the majority of his wrestling career.
Moving into his sophomore campaign, Bruno became more confident on the college level each weekend he competed. By midseason, Michigan had pushed its way into the top 10 teams in the nation, and Bruno was a massive contributor in the middle of the Wolverines’ lineup. He posted an overall record of 22-16 that season, finding a niche competing in tournament settings.
Although Bruno’s result at the 2014 Big Ten Championships was an underwhelming 1-2, he had done enough to secure a spot wrestling at the NCAA Championships. Capitalizing on that opportunity, he made it to the Round of 12, falling one win short of achieving what he narrowly missed the year before: All-American honors.
“I like tournament setting because I can wrestle a little more conservative in my first match, and then get rolling,” Bruno said. “If I have a good first match, I’ll wrestle better against better kids later on.”
The pursuit of dominance and top finishes continued into this season. Bruno has made some major mental adjustments, which have allowed him to compete with the aggressiveness and clarity he needs. Prompted by a suggestion from senior team captain Max Huntley, Bruno has learned to separate his goals for wrestling with those that will impact his life off the mats.
“I’ve only got two years left, so whether I accomplish my goals or not, there isn’t much that’s going to change in my real-world life,” Bruno said. “That takes a lot of pressure off of me. It makes me more confident and more fluid in my wrestling.”
Backed with that mindset, Bruno is on a tear in the first leg of this 2014-15 season. He has shot off to a 14-5 record, including an 11-3 mark in tournament play.
Bruno sat out of last weekend’s loss to No. 4 Ohio State because of a leg injury, but as one of the more experienced players on the team, he maintained an impact even from a non-competitive roll. Although he holds weight behind the fact that he’s not a captain, Bruno is trying to spread his style of leading by example and being tremendously assertive on the mat.
With one more full season of eligibility, combining both wrestling success and repurposed focus is opening channels for Bruno to stride into national championship contention. The pinnacle position in college wrestling is in his sights.
And he won’t stop until he’s there.