The Michigan wrestling team is making a dynasty right here in our own backyard. The Wolverines are coming off three straight top-10 NCAA finishes and kick off their 2003-04 season tomorrow at Eastern Michigan. Returning NCAA Champion Ryan Bertin and a solid mix of veterans, Michigan coach Joe McFarland is pumped to get his guys on the mat.
“I’m looking forward to seeing where our guys are at,” McFarland said. “They’ve all been working extremely hard, whether it be on the mat, in the weight room or running sprints. After this weekend, we’ll see what we need to work on in the practice room.”
Coming off a seventh-place finish in the NCAA Championships last year, McFarland has set the bar high once again.
“Obviously, our overall team goal is to have as many individual All-Americans and national champions as possible,” McFarland said. “We want to finish in the top four in the NCAAs and get on the platform (the top four teams go). We want to get on the podium this year.”
The captains of this year’s squad are Bertin (157 lbs.), a junior, and fifth-year seniors Pat Owen (165 lbs.) and Foley Dowd (133 lbs.). The trio is looking to help McFarland instill the “Michigan style” of wrestling into some of the younger mat crawlers.
“This weekend, I am really going to be looking for everyone to be getting after it,” McFarland said. “I want to see our style out there — the aggressive style that has been our staple.”
McFarland and the rest of the Michigan coaching staff are looking forward to big things from heavyweight redshirt sophomore Greg Wagner (24-15 last year), redshirt sophomore Ryan Churella (13-9) and fifth-year senior Clark Forward (15-19).
“We have a good balance of experienced wrestlers and some new faces,” McFarland said. “I want my young guys to step right in and have success from the get-go (with help from the veterans).”
After the Eastern Michigan Open this week, the Wolverines have a few more tune-ups before their first showdown with Central Michigan Nov. 23 in Ann Arbor.