The No. 9 Michigan wrestling team appears to be stepping it up at just the right time. With the Big Ten Championship two weeks away, the Wolverines looked dominant yesterday afternoon against No. 5 Ohio State. On the strength of two pins and a technical fall, Michigan scored a 26-17 upset over the Buckeyes.
“It’s nice when you’re winning at the end of the year,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “It’s good when you’re putting together your best wrestling towards the end of the season.”
The match began at 125 pounds, when senior A.J. Grant stepped onto the mat at Cliff Keen Arena for the last time. Grant and 197-pounder Kyle Smith were both honored for their accomplishments as Wolverines prior to the match. Grant would not disappoint in his final home dual meet. The fourth-ranked All-American put on a takedown clinic at the expense of a hapless Nathan Costello, scoring 15 points in the first period. Grant added two sets of near-fall points in the second and third period to score a 26-11 technical fall.
Michigan redshirt junior Foley Dowd, currently ranked No. 7 in the country at 133 pounds, would not be outdone by his fellow lightweight Grant. Dowd scored four takedowns in the first period before pinning his opponent, Rob Rosenfeld, at the 2:41 mark.
“A.J. (Grant) got us started on the right foot, and then Foley (Dowd) getting the pin for us was huge,” McFarland said. “It got the momentum going on our side, and was definitely a piece of the puzzle as far as our win tonight.”
After junior Clark Forward fell to Ohio State’s Jeff Ratliff, the Wolverines held an 11-3 lead. The bout between Michigan freshman Ryan Churella, ranked fifteenth in the country, and No. 17 Josh Daugherty had all the implications of a marquee matchup, but injury spoiled the competition. Daugherty scored the only takedown in the first period to go up 2-0, but Churella would put Daugherty to his back in the second period with some impressive leg riding. As Churella held Daugherty on his back, the Ohio State 149-pounder signaled to the ref for an injury timeout. After the match resumed, Churella began leg riding again, and Daugherty signaled for another injury timeout. This time around though, Ohio State was out of injury time, and was forced to take an injury default, giving the Wolverines six points and a hefty 17-3 lead.
“I think Daugherty had a rib injury. When you get stretched out there like Ryan (Churella) did to him there, that kind of thing happens,” McFarland said.
The Buckeyes would regain some momentum in the next match that featured two of the top 10 157-pounders in the country. Ohio State’s Keaton Anderson recently moved to No. 1 in the country after routing top-ranked Luke Becker of Minnesota 10-3 last week. Anderson controlled the match against Michigan All-American sophomore Ryan Bertin, scoring a pair of takedowns and a reversal en route to a 7-3 victory.
Ohio State looked poised to make a charge with four of its next five wrestlers ranked in the top 20, including three ranked in the top 10. With the Wolverines leading 17-6, Michigan redshirt junior Pat Owen was sent out to wrestle No. 4 Johnny Clark. With the score knotted at 2-2 in the second period, Owen put Clark to his back and pinned him to score a stunning upset.
“That was a big win for us. There’s no doubt about it,” McFarland said. “Pat has come through for us on more than one occasion.”
The pin gave the Wolverines a fairly insurmountable 23-9 lead going into the 174-pound matchup between Michigan freshman R.J. Boudro and No. 6 Blake Kaplan. Boudro got two late takedowns, but came up one point short. Kaplan scored an escape with 20 seconds left to win the match, 10-9.
“R.J. (Boudro) is right there,” McFarland said. “He’s right in position to win these matches. He’s just got to get over a hump and figure some things up.”
At 197 pounds, Smith looked like the aggressive wrestler that fans saw at the NCAA Championships last season. The All-American scored two late takedowns to score an upset over No. 8 Anton Talamantes.
“This win was good for our confidence, and we’re just going to use it to build momentum through Big Ten and Nationals,” McFarland said. “I like where we are at right now.”