The Michigan wrestling team begins preseason action this weekend at the Eastern Michigan Open in Ypsilanti. The tournament allows younger wrestlers to experience collegiate level wrestling. Also, the more experienced and varsity wrestlers can shake off the rust of offseason inactivity.

Paul Wong
Michigan”s Andy Hrovat will play a key role on the mats this season as the Wolverines are once again expected to compete for a national title.<br><br>DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily

At preseason tournaments like the Eastern Michigan Open, the Michigan State Open and the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, the Wolverines look to gain valuable live-match experience. Michigan”s regular season action kicks off Dec. 7 against Michigan State in East Lansing.

But the Michigan wrestlers don”t look at this weekend”s tournament as just a warm-up they want to win.

“I”d like to have our team go in there and sweep all 10 weight classes,” said 174-pound captain Otto Olson.

The Wolverines will look at their preseason tournaments as a starting point in their journey to their ultimate destination the NCAA Division I crown. Going into the NCAA Championships last year, the third-ranked Wolverines looked to compete with the wrestling powerhouses of Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma State for the title. Despite an impressive third-place finish by Olson, Michigan finished in a disappointing seventh place.

Michigan is once again expected to compete for the national title. The Wolverines return all but one of last year”s starters 197-pounder Joe DeGain. Alongside Olson, Michigan returns Andy Hrovat, another All-American, who placed fourth at last year”s NCAA Championships.

Hrovat looked very impressive this summer, winning the 187.25-pound freestyle national crown and taking the silver medal at the Pan Am meet. In late June at the World Team Trials, Hrovat took third to earn a spot on the U.S. National Team.

Also returning this year are All-Americans A.J. Grant at 125 pounds, Mike Kulczycki at 149 pounds and heavyweight Matt Brink.

Redshirt freshman Steve Heleniak and senior Kyle Smith look to be the wrestlers vying for the 197-pound spot left open by DeGain”s departure. Tournaments like this weekend”s will help Michigan coach Joe McFarland ascertain which of his wrestlers can compete at the collegiate level.

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