The Michigan wrestling team, currently ranked No. 5 by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, held their Maize and Blue Intrasquad meet yesterday at Cliff Keen Arena. Every year the intrasquad wrestle-offs determine the starters at each weight to begin the season. But because of a knee injury to All-American Mike Kulczycki, the most intriguing wrestle-offs will have to take place later in the season.
After having a difficult time making weight last year at 149 pounds, Kulczycki was set to wrestle sophomore Ryan Bertin at 157 pounds yesterday with the loser to challenge senior Pat Owen at 165 pounds.
“He has been fitted with a brace for that knee and this afternoon he was drilling,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “He is feeling better every day but it will definitely be a couple weeks before we get him back on the mat.
“He and Ryan are going to wrestle off at 157. When that is going to be I have no idea. I want to give Mike adequate time to get that knee back where he needs to have it. That will be sometime right around Christmas I imagine.”
With the season set to begin, McFarland wanted to see a high level of intensity from the wrestlers.
“I want to make sure we are wrestling a certain style,” McFarland said. “I want to make sure we are aggressive and getting after those guys. One person in particular who did a really good job of that tonight was Ryan Bertin. He was changing off from one thing to another and constantly being the aggressor. In a dual meet, I want all 10 of my guys going out and wrestling that style.”
McFarland’s other concern is conditioning, which is often the case early in the season.
Kyle Smith, currently ranked fifth in the InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News polls, had a surprisingly difficult time with freshman Chase Verdoorn at 197 pounds. In their first match Smith earned a close 5-2 victory. The second match was also a tough battle, but Smith won by a more decisive 13-4 margin. Smith was clearly fatigued in the third round of both matches.
“I think Kyle needs to do a better job of getting his weight down and then he needs to get in better shape,” McFarland said. “He’s not the only one. A few guys need to continue to work on conditioning. This is the first time a lot of the guys have been in competition, and it showed.”
The Wolverines’ season begins Friday with a dual meet at No. 8 Lehigh; they will be without redshirt freshman Ryan Churella in addition to Kulcyzucki. Churella injured his knee in practice last Wednesday and Jeremiah Tobias will fill in at 149 pounds.