In front of an enthusiastic and inspired Crisler Center crowd Sunday afternoon, the Michigan wrestling team (4-2) went on an impressive run. It won four of the meet’s final five matches to clinch a 22-15 comeback victory over No. 11 Minnesota (7-4).
Despite underdog status in the meet, Michigan coach Sean Bormet and his team were confident and motivated to clash with stiff Big Ten competition.
“We thought it was a great opportunity individually for our guys to go in and win some matches against guys that were ranked higher than them,” Bormet said. “As a team to go in and beat a team ranked higher than us. Our guys were just looking at it as a great opportunity to compete.”
Sunday’s first half of bouts left the Wolverines in a precarious position moving forward. In a series of highly-defensive and tightly-contested spars early on, Michigan took a 6-3 advantage with help from redshirt junior Kanen Storr and redshirt freshman Will Lewan.
Momentum began to shift Minnesota’s way, as Golden Gopher redshirt sophomore Bailee O’Reilly and No.7-ranked fifth-year senior Devin Skatzka dominated their Wolverine opponents. Both were awarded bonus points en route to a 12-6 lead at intermission.
At the break, Bormet stressed to his team the importance of rebounding in the final five matches by being both aggressive and composed. In the locker room, Bormet specifically looked to redshirt sophomore Jelani Embree, who was scheduled to wrestle first after intermission.
“Jelani needed to come out and get that momentum going back our way, using his speed and power,” Bormet said. “I was just making sure he had his composure and he was ready to go.”
Embree responded to his coach’s wisdom well, defeating Owen Webster in sudden-death overtime and sending the Crisler faithful into a frenzy. The afternoon’s most thrilling match also came with some controversy, as a last-second takedown ruling by Webster was overturned at the end of the third period, setting up Embree’s overtime win.
“In that moment, I was trying to stay calm,” Embree said. “Thankfully, it worked out in my favor and I was able to take advantage of that second life that I was given.”
In the 197-pound matchup, fifth-year senior Jackson Striggow was in full control of his opponent – Minnesota’s fifth-year senior Hunter Ritter – finishing with a pair of takedowns in a hard-fought 6-4 win. Following the final buzzer, Striggow seemed to feed off the excitement of the crowd, raising his arms in elation after the Wolverines had knotted the overall score at 12 apiece.
Striggow competed with a little more on his mind than his teammates when peering across the mat at the Golden Gophers bench.
“I grew up 15 miles from the University of Minnesota,” Striggow said. “So I always wrestle with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because Michigan gave me a chance and Minnesota didn’t. So it’s always fun to beat them and it’s really cool to know that the state of Michigan has kind of adopted me as one of their guys.”
Following Striggow’s match, Michigan continued its run of dominance on the mat with victories from sophomore Mason Parris in the heavyweight division and redshirt freshman Joey Silva in the 133-pound class to secure a 22-15 team win.