Recovering from the letdown of last Friday”s pasting at the hands of No. 1 Minnesota, the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (10-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) started slow, then dominated the overmatched No. 24 Purdue Boilermakers (9-2, 2-1), 27-9, yesterday at Cliff Keen.
Although its first two wrestlers, heavyweight Matt Brink and 125-pounder No. 8 A.J. Grant, both lost to ranked opponents, Michigan began to assert control by the middle of the meet.
After No. 8 Foley Dowd beat Purdue”s Rene Hernandez 11-8 in the 133-pound match, Michigan”s 141-pounder Clark Forward put on his best recent performance by beating Purdue”s Randy Pursley 15-6, earning a major decision.
Forward”s aggressiveness seemed to rub off on the rest of the team. No. 7 Mike Kulcycki, No. 5 Ryan Bertin, No. 1 Otto Olson and No. 4 Andy Hrovat each handily defeated their opponents. Only Olson defeated a ranked opponent (No. 8 Ryan Lange), but every win was marked by a characteristic the Michigan staff constantly preaches relentlessness.
After Friday”s loss to Minnesota, “We talked about constantly pushing yourself,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “I want an exciting product that puts out high intensity, high pressure.”
Although the victory over Purdue provided a pleasant finish to the weekend, Friday”s prime-time meet against Minnesota was the main event.
Heading into the showdown, McFarland wanted victories in the first few matches. Unfortunately for Michigan, the meet started at the 125-pound weight class, with underdog Grant falling to Minnesota”s No. 2 Leroy Vega.
Minnesota had favored wrestlers competing in each of the first five matches. With a win unlikely in injured heavyweight Brink”s match against Minnesota”s No. 6 Garrett Lowney, Michigan needed one or two upsets before intermission.
Its best chance came in the second match, when 133- pounder Dowd wrestled No.1 Ryan Lewis with Michigan down 3-0. Dowd had control throughout, but he could not finish his moves with take-downs. Still, he led 2-1 late in the match and the enthusiastic crowd was beginning to roar at the prospect of the upset. But then, Lewis turned his game up a notch, scoring a take-down with less than a minute left to send the match into overtime.
With Dowd tiring and Lewis staying strong, overtime belonged to the Minnesota wrestler. He finished Dowd with a take-down, quieting the crowd in the process of winning 5-3.
Perhaps deflated by Dowd”s loss, Forward, Kulcycki and Bertin each lost. Kulcycki”s match against Minnesota”s No. 2 Jared Lawrence was especially hurtful because he gave up a major decision, losing four points to the Gophers.
At intermission, the team and the home crowd were flat, down 16-0, with just five matches left.
Seventh-ranked 165-pounder Charles Martelli showed some determination by reversing the tide and posting an impressive 7-4 win over Nate Baker.
With the Wolverines down 16-3 in the meet, Olson took on Volkmann in the 174-pound match. Knowing his team needed bonus points, Olson launched a late flurry of take-downs, willing his way to a 15-7 major decision.
“Otto looked fantastic,” McFarland said. “He was dominating out there.”
Andy Hrovat exacted some revenge in the 184-pound match against his nemesis, No. 5 Damion Hahn, winning 9-3. Hrovat”s two early take-downs allowed him to methodically break down his opponent instead of trying to score out of desperation.
“Getting the first takedown was crucial,” Hrovat said. As a result, “I could open up my offense more.”
Hrovat did more than just take revenge against Hahn he gave Michigan a glimmer of hope. Down 16-10 with Kyle Smith and Brink due to wrestle, the Wolverines had a chance.
Smith started strong against No. 3 Owen Elzen, leading 4-3 with two early takedowns. But Elzen grew stronger as Smith weakened. In the third period, Elzen finished off the worn-down Smith, winning 9-5 with two late take-downs. With Minnesota winning 19-10 at this point, the meet was essentially over.
In the anticlimactic final match, Brink fell 5-2 to Lowney.
Although the results of the meet were disappointing, the fan attendance was not. A record 3,392 wrestling fans supported the Wolverines” bid to upset the Golden Gophers in Crisler Arena.
“It was great to see that many people come out to watch Michigan wrestling,” said Hrovat. “It shows that our style of aggressive wrestling attracts people.”