Going into Saturday morning, Michigan wrestling needed a strong day.
After aiming to win their respective divisions, only three of the eight Michigan wrestlers at nationals advanced to the quarterfinals. Those three wrestlers — fifth-year senior Alex Pantaleo, redshirt junior Stevan Micic and redshirt junior Myles Amine — were all two-time All Americans, all in their third quarterfinal appearances at the NCAA Tournament and all looking to push the Wolverines to a top-five team finish.
And that they did.
The Michigan wrestling team placed fifth in the NCAA Championship this weekend, with third place finishes and All-American honors for Pantaleo, Micic and Amine in the 157-, 133- and 174-pound weight classes, respectively. Despite disappointing outcomes for several wrestlers, including heavyweight freshman Mason Parris, the Wolverines’ performances secured a team finish on par with the No. 5 ranking the team sustained throughout the dual meet season.
Thursday’s rounds proved tough for Michigan, with losses in multiple weight classes. At heavyweight, Parris lost in the first round to Iowa’s Sam Stoll. Sophomore Drew Mattin, redshirt sophomore Kanen Storr and redshirt junior Logan Massa also sustained defeats early in the second round in the 125, 141 and 165 divisions, respectively. Parris’ loss in particular marked a premature end to the season considering his breakout performance after burning his redshirt earlier in the season.
“He had a tremendous freshman year and out of the eight All-Americans, he beat four of them this year,” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “He fell a little short first round but he had a great run in the wrestlebacks and scored a lot of points for the team in the blood round. But he really wrestled really hard.”
Despite early losses, all four contributed to the team score with their regular bracket performances and wins in the wrestleback rounds. Even with those early letdowns, with fifth-year Malik Amine’s 1-2 elimination from contention in consolations, Pantaleo, Micic and Myles Amine found success in early rounds of the tournament.
In the first two rounds of the tournament, Pantaleo defeated Buffalo’s Alex Smythe in a major decision and Army’s Luke Weiland, 5-3. In similar fashion, Micic plowed through Stanford’s Mason Pengilly, 18-7, and Purdue’s Ben Thornton, 11-2, and Amine beat Rutgers’ Joe Grello and Navy’s Spencer Cary in a 12-3 major decision.
“They competed with everything they had and did a tremendous job battling their way to a third place finish,” Bormet said.
Entering Friday morning with those wins under their belt, the three Wolverines advancing to the quarterfinals all lost in that round. While Amine defeated Lehigh’s Jordan Kutler before his eventual loss to No. 1 seed Mark Hall of Penn State, Micic and Pantaleo both lost in the first match of the quarterfinal round. All three moved into the third place consolation round on Saturday to finish the weekend.
“It was a really tough round on Friday night and Stevan, Miles and Alec’s goals were to be NCAA champions, so they were disappointed on Friday night," Bormet said. “But we had a brief team meeting and we talked about the opportunities that were still in front of them on Saturday and how important it was to them to dig deep and put their best performance on the mat for Michigan, our fans, our alumni, their high school programs and their families.
“They dug deep and did a great job.”
In a 6-0 bout Saturday, Amine, Pantaleo and Micic all won both their respective matches and the third place title. Those places, with wrestleback wins, earned the team 62.5 points, just enough to edge out Missouri — which finished with 62 points — for fifth place.
“We had many ups and downs, but I was really proud of the strong finish we had on Saturday to produce three third place All-Americans and finish fifth as a team,” Bormet said. “I feel good about our season.”