Michigan falls victim to No. 1 Penn State

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By Ben Fidelman, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 2, 2014

There were very few positives for Michigan wrestling to take away from Sunday afternoon’s 32-9 shellacking from top-ranked Penn State.

Aside from fifth-year senior Eric Grajales and freshman Adam Coon’s wins, the team was shut out through the remaining eight flights.

The Nittany Lions carry ranked wrestlers in every weight class, including six in the top-five — a talent level that the 12th-ranked Wolverines (5-1 Big Ten, 9-3 overall) couldn’t overcome.

The match got off to a sweeping start for Penn State (7-0, 13-0) as they grabbed a 10-0 lead by taking the 125-, 133-, and 141-pound weight class matches.

It was detrimental for Michigan to get off to a slow start, but it was three matches later in the dual that sealed the deal for the Nittany Lions.

The Wolverines didn’t just lose the 165-, 174- and 184-pound weight class matches, but lost at the technical fall level — the wrestling equivalent of a mercy rule.

“We didn’t get any momentum from our lightweights today,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “That starts at 125 pounds, (redshirt freshman) Conor (Youtsey) didn’t get any offense going. It was really easy to see that kid was attacking and we were defending. You’re not going to win matches that way.”

Grajales, who wrestles at the 149-pound weight class, was one of the only bright spots for Michigan. After a sluggish first period, where he found himself in a 6-2 hole, the match took a different direction.

With 55 seconds remaining in the second period Grajales made his move. He hoisted his opponent up and slammed him down in-sync with the exploding crowd. The two opponents exchanged back-to-back takedowns, followed by a volley of Grajales takedowns. As the clock wound down, Penn State held a 13-12 lead, but the crowd urged him on with chants of “Eric-Eric.”

Riding the momentum, Grajales pinned his opponent just as the clock expired, cutting Penn State’s lead to 10-6.

The next match, the 157-pound weight class, was an important one for the Wolverines — failing to capitalize on the momentum from Grajales’s pin would make it nearly impossible to come out with a victory.

Freshman Brian Murphy was next up for Michigan. The buzzer at the end of the first period interrupted Murphy — who is No. 14 in the weight class — as he was in the process of scoring a takedown, which would have given him an early 2-0 lead. At the beginning of the second period, Penn State’s Dylan Alton, ranked 4th, avoided another takedown when the referee stopped play because he was in a potentially dangerous position.

The match went to overtime, where Murphy was crippled with a knee injury. With 24 seconds remaining in the third overtime period, Alton clinched the victory with a takedown.

Freshman sensation Adam Coon took a 2-1 decision in the heavyweight class, but it was too little, too late for the Wolverines.

As Michigan works its way through an unrelenting Big Ten schedule, there’s no time to sit back and feel sorry for itself.

“We’ll learn from this,” McFarland said. “We have to stay focused and put this behind us and get ready for Nebraska and Iowa.”