Friday night, the Michigan wrestling team executed a complete reversal. In defeating No. 3 Iowa by a score of 18-16, the fifth-ranked Wolverines avenged last month”s 20-18 loss to the nation”s most prestigious program.
Michigan”s victory was procured by remarkable individual displays of willpower and effort.
Friday”s margin of victory, the four-point swing between regret and jubilation, was secured by the bonus points Michigan earned and the bonus points it refused to surrender.
Last time, Michigan”s 18 points were recorded by virtue of six minor decisions, but two pins and two major decisions handed Iowa the win. Aware of that fact, the Wolverines entered Friday”s rematch determined not to grant the Hawkeyes the same advantage.
Behind the efforts of 174-pounder Otto Olson, 184-pounder Andy Hrovat and heavyweight Matt Brink, three of the first five matches resulted in major decisions for the Maize and Blue.
“I knew it would come down to a close match and that a major decision would be huge,” Olson, the senior captain, said. “That”s why I took the guy down late in the match that”s the pressure I put on myself, to get those big points.”
In a match that ended 13-5, that late takedown secured the eight-point margin necessary for the major decision, adding an extra point to Michigan”s team score.
The three bonus points from the major decisions made up for the two-point margin that Michigan previously had fallen victim to against Iowa.
After racing out to the 18-point lead, Michigan”s challenge became protecting its advantage against the Hawekeyes” murderer”s row of five wrestlers ranked in the top five the weights that produced all 20 points in January.
At 141 pounds, Michigan”s Clark Forward took that challenge upon himself.
“I didn”t feel too proud of myself after National Duals, because we got beat by two points, and I got pinned,” Forward said. “I can”t even remember the last time I got pinned I think I was a little kid. It just isn”t me to get pinned.”
That pin provided the three bonus points separating Michigan from victory.
As Forward retook the mat with top-ranked Doug Schwab, he stubbornly refused to suffer the same fate.
While 2,050 screaming fans provided the backdrop in Cliff Keen Arena, Forward wrestled valiantly, coming close to an early pin and taking an 8-7 lead in the final period before succumbing 9-8 by virtue of a late takedown.
“I knew that we were going to have a lead going in to our lower weights, where they”re tough. And I knew that I”d have to suck it up and help us keep that lead,” Forward said. “So I went out there, and I pushed him, and hell, I gave him all he wanted.
“Tonight, I wrestled a hell of a match, but I never go out there to keep the match close. I go out there to win. Everybody”s telling me “Good job, you wrestled a hell of a match,” but that”s not what I go out there for.
Despite the conflicting emotions, another factor ensured Forward”s lasting satisfaction. As a recruit two years ago, Forward”s services were actively pursued by both the Wolverines and Hawkeyes, and the allure of Iowa prestige was hard to turn down.
“I remember when I got my first phone call from Iowa, I was so pumped,” Forward said. “But (Michigan”s) coach McFarland”s spiel was “The Gable era is over with, and I”m taking over now. We”re going to beat Iowa, and you”re part of the plan.”
“And I told him tonight in the locker-room after the match, “You were right, we did beat Iowa.””
And Forward played his part in the plan.