Michigan wrestling coach Joe McFarland wants his team to be aggressive.
It seems like a straightforward — even obvious — concept. Wrestling is a sport in which the aggressor almost always wins. Points are awarded for taking down the opponent, and not for standing on one’s heels. But many Wolverines have had difficulty grasping that concept this season.
And coming off five straight losses, McFarland is doing what any coach would do in the waning days of a disappointing season — he’s looking to the future.
It’s a future that, McFarland thinks, looks very bright.
Friday night’s loss to unranked Michigan State had to be tough for him to swallow, but the match wound up showcasing exactly what the coach wanted to see. It was a match that featured his team’s young (and aggressive) talent, as the three freshmen on the 10-man roster accounted for 9 of the Wolverines’ 15 points.
Highlighting that young talent was true freshman Sean Boyle, who made a name for himself when he won each of his three matches at the Virginia Duals in early January.
“One of the things I love about him is that he wrestles hard,” McFarland said. “He sets the pace in his matches, and quite honestly, that’s why he can compete with all the upperclassmen.”
Boyle exhibits the style of wrestling that McFarland has become known for in his 11 years at the helm. He goes for the legs early, and he wears his opponents down throughout the match. And since McFarland doesn’t have much experience coaching in a “rebuilding” year, which the 2009-10 season has become, Boyle’s success is like a breath of fresh air.
The freshman’s drive for success in the Big Ten — considered one of the best perennial wrestling conferences in the nation — started long before his collegiate career. In fact, he wrestled throughout high school at Blair Academy, a preparatory school that is typically considered the best wrestling school in the country, where he finished with a 188-7 overall record.
And while there are no longer “easy” matches at the collegiate level, Boyle has no intention of slowing his progress.
“I’m looking to improve, and hopefully I’ll win it all by my senior year,” Boyle said, “I want to be ranked No. 1 (in the NCAA).”
Boyle will have the chance to prove himself against a couple of the NCAA’s top-ranked wrestlers in the 125-lb slate this weekend. On Friday, he’ll face off against Ohio State’s No. 24 Nikko Triggas, and Sunday, he’ll wrestle Penn State’s No. 13 Brad Pataky.
Don’t be fooled by Boyle’s unranked status. He plans on winning both of his matches.
“They’ll both be pretty tough,” Boyle said. “But I think I’m right there with all these guys.”