They believe all their hard work is about to pay off; all the
two-a-days, and weight lifting are about to see the end result.
Tomorrow and Sunday, the Wolverines’ wrestling team will put
their hard work to the test as it heads to Columbus for the Big Ten
Championships.

The expectations for Michigan have been high all season, as
coach Joe McFarland has known from the outset that he had a
talented bunch.

“We are definitely one of the teams in contention to win
it,” McFarland said. “We worked hard the whole year,
and the team is really excited. We’re just going to go in
there and wrestle as hard as we can, you can’t ask for
anything more than that.”

The Wolverines finished the regular season 7-1 in Big Ten dual
meet action in what was an ultra-competitive conference this
year.

“We are one of five teams in contention to win the Big
Tens,” McFarland said. “Everyone needs to contribute
and overachieve a little bit in order for us to take it
all.”

Michigan will have two No. 1 seeds this weekend in Foley Dowd
(133 lbs.), who is 14-0 overall, and Ryan Churella (149 lbs.), who
stands at 25-3 overall. Only Iowa has more No. 1 seeds in this
weekend’s tournament (three) than the Wolverines. Illinois,
Penn State, and Minnesota are also top contenders to take the
crown.

For heavyweight Greg Wagner (29-6 overall), a No. 2 seed, this
weekend is a chance for him to conquer his toughest obstacle of the
season thus far.

“I’m hoping to wrestle up to my seed and get to the
finals,” Wagner said. “I’ve had trouble this year
with No.1 seed Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State. He’s beaten me
three times. I want to beat him on his mat.”

In preparation for the home stretch of the season, McFarland has
taken notice of his team’s needs and has toned things down a
bit in practice after going hard over spring break.

“We’re going in fresh,” McFarland said.
“We have a whole season under our belt so we’ve
shortened things up a little bit. At this point in the season, and
with the NCAAs coming up in two weeks fresh legs are
key.”

When asked if anything less than a Big Ten title would be a
disappointment, McFarland was quick to put that notion to bed.

“No way,” the coach said. “Not with how
competitive the Big Ten is and with the NCAAs coming up. Regardless
of what happens this weekend, we are going to keep our heads up and
go into the NCAAs strong.”

Wagner agreed: “It would be a big disappointment to have
lost the Big Tens, but win or lose we can’t linger. We have
nationals in two weeks.”

So what are the ultimate goals for this weekend?

“We want to exceed our seeds and get all 10 guys to the
NCAAs,” McFarland stated. “The top seven in each weight
class go (to the NCAAs), so we’re gonna need our
upperclassmen to step up and drive us.”

The culmination of the season is here and the grapplers feel
they are prepared.

“The point of our season is to get better and to keep
building,” Wagner said. “We train to climax for the Big
Ten’s and the NCAAs — this is our time.”

“One thing is for sure,” McFarland said. “This
weekend is gonna be a brawl.”

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