It’s been a recurring theme all season.

The Wolverine wrestlers have been unable to close out “swing matches” in Big Ten competition. They let early leads escape. They come back from early deficits, but fall just short. They lose focus in the third period.

Look no further than Friday night. Wolverine freshman Sean Boyle took a one-point lead into the third period over Ohio State’s 20th-ranked Nikko Triggas before he was pinned with 60 seconds left in the match.

The performance typified Michigan’s frustrating season, and there were plenty of reminders this past weekend. The team suffered blowout losses at the hands of No. 3 Ohio State and No. 11 Penn State by 20 and 19 points, respectively.

“We have to score early, be aggressive, stay aggressive and get our shots off when we need to,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “But sometimes we didn’t do that, which gave them more opportunities.”

Each close match from this past weekend was decided by at least one of the factors he listed: scoring early, aggression and shooting in on the legs.

Redshirt junior Aaron Hynes got off to a slow start against Penn State’s seventh-ranked Dan Vallimont, as he gave up both a takedown and a reversal before he rebounded in the second period. But his efforts were too little, too late and he fell one point short in a 8-7 decision.

Redshirt sophomore Justin Zeerip seemed to lack aggression, as he scored just one escape point against Ohio State’s 12th-ranked Dave Rella, logging 6-1. The low score was partly due to Rella’s ability to react quickly to Zeerip’s dives and protect his legs, but ultimately, it was Zeerip who didn’t get the shots off.

The wrestlers who did heed McFarland’s advice were able to garner individual victories in each of their matches. Sophomore Zac Stevens and redshirt junior Anthony Biondo accounted for four of the team’s six victories this weekend.

And Biondo recognizes that his four straight Big Ten victories have been a direct result of McFarland’s advice.

“Earlier in the season, I was focusing on the tendencies of my opponents way too much,” Biondo said. “What I needed to be doing was focusing on conditioning myself to be more aggressive and get in on my guy’s legs as much as possible.”

Biondo’s ability to get shots in on his opponent’s legs allowed him to score six takedowns en route to a major decision victory.

And it’s clear that the team needs to adhere to McFarland’s coaching advice if it wants to rebound in Big Ten play this weekend when it faces off against Indiana and Wisconsin.

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