Michigan’s wrestling match against Northwestern had a little bit of everything – a moment of silence for the fallen astronauts of the Columbia shuttle, a ceremony for Michigan wrestling alumni and a blood-curdling scream at the end of the meet.
One thing the Michigan fans did not witness at Cliff Keen Arena on Saturday was a good wrestling match. The No. 8 Wolverines routed the hapless Wildcats 35-12.
“I think we wrestled well. I really do. We stayed aggressive, and that’s what I like to see,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “From 125 (pounds), all the way through, we did a good job.”
Michigan All-American 125-pounder A.J Grant, currently ranked fifth in the country at 125 pounds, started the meet off by manhandling Northwestern’s John Velez during a 15-3 major decision. At 133-pounds, Michigan starter Foley Dowd was unable to compete, as backup 125-pounder Shaun Newton stepped in for him.
“Over the years, Foley’s knees get sore from time to time, and we’re just trying to be careful with him and give him a little extra rest,” McFarland said.
Newton was impressive against Northwestern’s Jon Ott, sprawling out and defending against many of Ott’s attacks. In the end, though, a riding time advantage would give Ott the one point he needed to score a 6-5 decision over Newton. With the score at 4-3, Michigan 141-pounder Clark Forward would face Northwestern’s top wrestler in NCAA qualifier John Giacche. Forward led 3-2 going into the third period and then scored two takedowns to seal the victory over the veteran Giacche.
“Clark wrestled fantastic – that’s the way Clark is capable of wrestling,” McFarland said. “He stayed aggressive regardless of how much time was left. He iced that match with those late takedowns. That’s what I like to see Clark do.”
The Wolverines’ freshman phenom, Ryan Churella, dominated the Wildcats’ Paul Oggle at 149 pounds. Churella scored five takedowns over the course of three periods before finally pinning Oggle with 22 seconds remaining in the match.
All-American Ryan Bertin ws not to be outdone by Churella, as he pinned his opponent, Northwestern’s Mike Kimberlin, early in the second period. Fellow All-American Mike Kulczycki didn’t have the same kind of luck that Churella and Bertin enjoyed. After being taken down by the Wildcats’ Jason Erwinski, Kulczycki, in noticeable pain, signaled to the referee for an injury timeout. After a few minutes with the trainer, Kulczycki forfeited the match, giving six points to Northwestern and bringing the score to 19-9 in favor of Michigan.
“We just didn’t want to risk it with Mike at 165,” McFarland said. “We’re just getting him back from injury. He sprained his other ankle tonight. We had the match in hand, and there was no point in risking it.”
At 197 pounds, Michigan All-American Kyle Smith topped freshman Matt Delguyd in a match that was closer than it should have been. Smith controlled the match early on, but two third-period takedowns by Delguyd cut Smith’s lead to three. The All-American prevailed in the end, countering with two takedowns of his own to seal a 16-8 decision. “Kyle needs to keep his intensity level up,” McFarland said. “He got embarrassed when he got taken down a couple times. He got a little ticked off and went after the kid and got two takedowns at will. He loses his intensity from time to time. He needs to work on that. When Kyle is on the go, he’s hard to stop. I think he’s the strongest 197-pounder in the country.”
The final match of the evening was a gruesome one. With Michigan heavyweight Greg Wagner, ranked eighth in the country, squaring off against three-time high school Oklahoma state champion Mike Little, the match was supposed to be a close one. After falling awkwardly a minute and a half into the match, Little let out a scream that probably could have been heard in Evanston. Few fans could even look, as Little laid in writhing agony on the mat with his arm twisted in such a manner that even a contortionist would be shocked. The Northwestern heavyweight had dislocated his elbow, and after having it popped back in, was helped off the mat. Michigan received the injury default to close the match at 35-12.
Michigan’s win over Northwestern capped a 2-0 Big Ten weekend in which it also beat Indiana at Cliff Keen Arena, 25-13. Next weekend, the Wolverines will square off against defending national champion Minnesota and in-state rival Michigan State..