One could only describe Michigan wrestler Foley Dowd’s performance last season as inconsistent. One could go on to describe Dowd’s performance this season as simply amazing.

“Maturity and development is the difference. Foley really figured out how to win the close matches,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said.

“He prepares himself well for all his competition. I think experience is really the big thing here.”

Dowd is off to a red-hot start this year, climbing from ninth in the rankings at 133-pounds to No. 5, according to Wrestling International Newsmagazine’s latest poll.

The lightweight duo of Dowd and 125-pounder A.J. Grant makes up one of the most formidable combos in the country.

Dowd, a redshirt junior from Howell, N.J., has a 15-1 record this season, with his only loss coming against Cal-State Bakersfield’s Matt Sanchez at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

“Foley is very aggressive. He has some great leg attacks,” McFarland said.

“He’s just an outstanding wrestler.”

After beating No. 8 Cory Cooperman at the Lehigh dual meet and then topping No. 13 Phil Mansueto at the Cleveland State dual, Dowd put on his best performance to date at the Midlands Championship. Dowd shocked the wrestling world by entering the tournament as the No. 5 seed and walking out as the champion of one of the toughest tournaments in the country. En route to the Midland finals, Dowd beat No. 9 Mike Simpson from Arizona State and No. 10 Josh Moore from Penn State.

In the finals, Dowd squared off against No. 7 Zach Roberson – the All-American from Iowa State who had beaten him 8-3 in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Championships, knocking him into the consolation bracket.

Dowd scored the first takedown in the opening period to gain a 2-0 lead, but Roberson fought back to regain a 3-2 lead in the second period. With a late second-period escape, Dowd tied the score entering the third period. Scoring on an escape and a takedown in the final period, Dowd completed the upset over Roberson and had the last laugh.

“He wrestled fantastic at Midlands. He won some real tough matches,” McFarland said.

Dowd will have to carry his momentum into March for the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Last season, Dowd finished a disappointing seventh at the Big Ten Tournament after entering the tournament ranked sixth in the entire country. Dowd was then eliminated on the second day of last season’s NCAA Championships by Edinboro’s Cory Ace – a wrestler he had beaten earlier in the 2001-02 season.

The 133-pounder will be tested again in two weeks at the Cliff Keen/NWCA National Duals in Columbus. The four wrestlers ahead of Dowd in the rankings – Oklahoma’s Johnny Thompson, Oklahoma State’s Witt Durden, Minnesota’s Ryan Lewis and Wisconsin’s Kevin Black – will all compete.

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