As much as wrestling depends on coordinated maneuvers, balance, strength and quickness, a wrestler”s endurance ultimately determines his proficiencies in each department.
Said Michigan captain Andy Hrovat: “As long as you are tired, technique means nothing.”
The No. 4 Michigan wrestling team was not far behind No. 1 Minnesota in terms of skill, strength and athleticism. Judging from the beginnings of most of the matches, they appeared to be superior in some of them. But for the majority of their matches, the Golden Gophers had a clear edge in conditioning the determining factor in Minnesota”s 22-10 victory.
Down three points after an encouraging outing by Michigan”s A.J. Grant against Minnesota”s No. 2 Leroy Vega, the Wolverines needed a win badly to sustain some momentum in the meet.
It appeared that Michigan was going to register a momentum-changing upset when Foley Dowd went ahead 2-1 late in his match with No.1 Ryan Lewis. But Dowd tired late, giving up a takedown in the final period, then a second one in overtime to lose the match. Just like that, Michigan”s best hope to notch a win in the first five matches was gone.
“I knew we needed to win (Dowd”s) match,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “We had to win one or two matches of the first five.”
Fatigue also killed the Wolverines when they were trying to a prevent a major decision (a victory margin of eight or more, which results in a bonus point for the winning team).
In the 149-pound weight class, Minnesota”s Jared Lawrence had a slight lead over Michigan”s Mike Kulcycki. Late in the match, Lawrence became the aggressor and scored three take-downs in the final period for a major decision victory, 12-4.
Ironically, Michigan”s most impressive victory of the evening came as a result of superior endurance. Michigan”s Otto Olson, ranked No. 1 in the 174-pound weight class, was stuck in a tight duel with Jacob Volkmann. Knowing that his team needed a major decision from him, Olson had to attack late in the match, ahead just 7-4 with a minute left. Olson surged into a furious sequence of takedowns with a minute left, scoring six points in the final minute to win, 15-7. It was an example of how Olson”s warrior-like resolve could take over a tight match.
“I heard his coach say that I was tired, and I wanted to prove him wrong,” Olson said.
Through two periods of each match, the teams were incredibly close. The difference was that when Minnesota had to score in the end, it could shift up to another energy level. With many of the Michigan wrestlers, the tank was too empty to finish the match.
“Some of my guys broke down in the third period,” McFarland said. “To beat a team like Minnesota, you have to gut it out in the end.”