This season, one of the biggest tests for the Michigan wrestling team just happens to be its first. Friday, No. 7 Michigan will travel to Bethlehem, Pa. to wrestle No. 9 Lehigh. The Wolverines will wrestle in what happens to be the last match in the original Grace Hall – one of the most legendary venues in college wrestling. Grace Hall (capacity of 2,676) is known for its hostile crowd that comes right up to the mats to cheer on its Mountain Hawks.

“There have been some classic dual meets in Grace Hall,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “The match is completely sold out. There are some big wrestling fans in Eastern Pennsylvania, and it’s going to be loud in there. I think our team is excited to go down there and I think this is really going to be a great dual meet.”

Next year, the renovated Grace Hall will include skybox seating along and a new press box.

Before the classic structure becomes part of wrestling history, it will play host to one of the nation’s most anticipated matches of the season at 197 pounds.

Jon Trenge, who is currently ranked at the top of his weight class by every college-wrestling poll, will square off against Michigan’s Kyle Smith. Trenge was in the national final last year but lost to Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson, who compiled a record of 159-0 in his four-year career. Smith (ranked No. 5 by Wrestling International Newsmagazine) and Trenge are two of the most explosive wrestlers in the country.

Against fellow Michigan wrestler Chase Verdoorn at the Maize and Blue Intrasquad this past Sunday, Smith did not appear to be the same wrestler who took seventh at the 2002 NCAA Championships. Toward the end of each bout with Verdoorn, Smith seemed tired and passive.

“I hope he’s got the bugs worked out,” McFarland said.

Lehigh also features some of the best young talent in the country, including Troy Letters at 165 pounds and Travis Frick at 184. Senior Pat Owen, who was denied his spot at 157-pounds last year by All-American Ryan Bertin, slid back into the Michigan lineup at 165-pounds and hopes to start his season off on the right foot against Letters. Frick will square off against Michigan redshirt freshman Willie Breyer, who will make his varsity debut against the Mountain Hawks.

“I just hope our younger guys wrestle the way I know they can, and I hope nothing else, like being nervous, gets in the way,” McFarland said. “I just want our guys to go out there, go after them, and wrestle our aggressive style.”

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