With a win against Hofstra, the Michigan wrestling team would have upset the country’s third-ranked team, and Michigan coach Joe McFarland would have added a fourth win to his unblemished record against the Pride.
With a defeat, the Wolverines would have matched their loss total from last season and faced an uphill battle to recover from two consecutive loses.
But neither of these scenarios played out Saturday night at Cliff Keen Arena.
No. 11 Michigan came away with a tie for the first time since its match against No. 2 Illinois in February 2005. McFarland summed the meet up best by describing the result as “anticlimactic.”
“You’re never really satisfied with a tie,” redshirt junior Eric Tannenbaum said. “But considering that they’re ranked third, and we’re ranked 11th, it just shows everybody that No. 11 ranking isn’t really giving us the credit that we deserve. Tying a team that’s ranked third when we have a couple of guys that we are moving around weights shows our heart.”
The team’s feelings of disappointment and lack of satisfaction were obvious, especially after it held a 15-3 lead going into the intermission.
Hofstra won the first three matches after the break. But Michigan co-captain Josh Churella broke the Pride’s momentum in the fourth match and gave the Wolverines an 18-15 lead going into the final round.
In the end, Hofstra’s fourth-ranked James Strouse proved too much for unranked Jeff Marsh. Strouse completed the Pride’s comeback and forced the tie with a 6-3 victory.
Tannenbaum, ranked fifth in the 165-pound weight class, started the night off strong with a Michigan win, upsetting fourth-ranked Mike Patrovich in the marquee matchup of the meet.
Despite defeating a higher-ranked opponent, Tannenbaum thought he could have improved his performance.
“I wasn’t really in danger, except for that one position where he got in on my legs,” Tannenbaum said. “It’s not like I’m disappointed, but I think that the next time I wrestle him, I should be able to push the action and widen the gap. That’s something I’m trying to continue to work on – not just pulling away with wins, but pulling away with points.”
Following Tannenbaum’s win, redshirt sophomores Steve Luke and Tyrel Todd outmatched their opponents as well, with Todd earning a fall just 1:48 into the first period.
“I just knew going out there that I wanted to just concentrate on not freaking out and just keeping calm and relaxed,” Todd said. “When I get really psyched up, I get really stiff and I wear myself out. I just concentrated on staying relaxed out there on the mat, and it worked out really well. The kid was a bit small.”
The next match, at the 197-pound weight level, brought loud cries from the stands.
Redshirt sophomore Casey White’s comeback in the third period from five points down fell just short, with Hofstra’s four-minute time advantage breaking the tie.
But Michigan gained a lot of momentum at the end of the half. An overtime victory by heavyweight redshirt junior Omar Maktabi gave the Wolverines a 15-3 lead over the Pride.
“I thought when we got up like that (15-3), we won some tough matches,” McFarland said. “I thought after Omar’s match, we were in a good position to win. But again, those guys came back strong after the intermission and fought their way back into the match.”
Despite its collapse after the intermission, the Michigan wrestling team was still able to come away knowing that it wrestled much better than it had in its last match – a loss to Central Michigan a month ago.
“I think we’ll just continue to get better,” Tannenbaum said. “After Central Michigan, we were just kind of flat. But now we’ve had some really good practices, and we came out strong today.”
Said Todd: “I think that one big thing was the rest we were able to get over Christmas break. We were able to get the momentum going after Christmas, and that’s been really good for us. As a team, our bodies are healthier, and we definitely had more snap today. We’re hoping to keep improving on that.”