Coming into yesterday’s dual meet against Ohio State, the Michigan wrestling team had not emerged with a win since November. As the weeks passed, the Wolverines’ lack of Big Ten victories continued snowballing into a bigger and bigger zero.

But with the team’s 21-15 upset victory over the 17th-ranked Buckeyes, the lack of Ohio State victories against Michigan coach Joe McFarland (8-0 against Ohio State) was the zero everyone was talking about.

“It’s a great feeling,” heavyweight Casey White said of yesterday’s win. “We’ve obviously been struggling a little bit this year to come out with our first Big Ten win, (so) this really means a lot to us, especially against Ohio State.”

And the key to the Wolverine victory was as unpredictable as Michigan’s poor record this season. It wasn’t Michigan’s pair of second-ranked wrestlers playing a vital role, but instead, unranked guys stepping up big to give the team a necessary confidence boost going into the last weeks of the season.

“It’s something that I think we needed,” White said. “I think it just helps everyone’s confidence. It just kind of gives us a little bit of a boost going into the end of the season. The wrestling season is so long and it’s such a grind that a win like this can really just help you get your confidence back up and push you to the end.”

With the 149-pound weight class slated to begin the meet, No. 23 Michigan expected to take an early lead as second-ranked Josh Churella faced 17th-ranked Lance Palmer, who Churella had defeated 3-0 at the season-opening Eastern Michigan Open.

But the 1,339 fans in Cliff Keen Arena were shocked as the Buckeye wrestler pulled off a reversal in the waning seconds of the second tiebreak to win 6-4.

As a furious Churella walked off the mat, he threw his ear guards into the locker room and feelings of concern infiltrated the Michigan bench. The Wolverines were forced to bank on fifth-year senior Rob Sulaver. The Dearborn native was subbing in for Jeff Marsh (flu) and had just performed in a University production of “A Few Good Men” the previous three nights.

But his clutch 7-2 victory following Churella’s tough loss was what deserved a standing ovation.

“Josh is one of the best wrestlers on this team and you just don’t see him lose,” White said. “It was something that was kind of a shocker to us, but right after that Rob Sulaver just came back with a huge win. He’s just awesome. It’s his fifth year, and I think that was a great win for him and something that really helped our team to bounce right back.”

After the victory to tie the score, second-ranked Eric Tannenbaum took a forfeit win (165 pounds). The next three Wolverines then responded with victories, emerging as unlikely heroes.

Jordan Sherrod held on to win 2-1 against the tough 14th-ranked Chris Vondruska (who was originally slated to face Tannenbaum), putting Michigan up 12-3 in the meet.

And then the polar opposite weight classes, heavyweight and 125 pounds, came through back-to-back for Michigan, with White earning a momentum-swinging fall with 17 seconds left in the third period despite trailing going into the final period. Sophomore Michael Watts then notched his first dual meet victory of the season to put Ohio State down by an insurmountable 12-point lead.

“Winning those tough matches are key,” McFarland said. “In some of our past duals . we haven’t been able to win those real close matches on a few occasions that can swing a dual meet in your favor. And we were able to do that today. We got to build off this and use this momentum to finish strong.”

After falling to No. 22 Indiana (2-3 Big Ten, 11-4 overall) 21-15 on Friday, the Wolverines (1-5 Big Ten, 2-8-1 overall) looked as if they were going to continue their downward spiral in dual meets, where they had been hindered by a lack of depth.

On Friday, it was Michigan’s ranked wrestlers that scored almost all of the team’s points, with Tannenbaum holding onto a 3-2 lead to remain undefeated on the season, and Churella and redshirt sophomore Tyrel Todd each earning key decisions.

But despite the Churella and Todd losses on Sunday, Michigan still came away with its second win of the season and eliminated its winless Big Ten record, and of course, kept McFarland’s record against the Buckeyes perfect.

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