After suffering two one-point losses to Bloomsburg and American on Saturday, the Michigan wrestling team looked like it was en route to another heartbreaking defeat.
But against Penn, the Wolverines rallied to come away with a 19-12 win in the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals in Guilderland, N.Y.
“I was really happy with the way we picked ourselves up after the first two matches,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “Losing two duals by one point each is tough, but we were able to bounce back.”
The Quakers led the Wolverines by three points before sophomore Erich Smith and juniors Anthony Biondo and Eddie Phillips swept the last three matches for the Wolverines.
“In the first two matches, we weren’t wrestling with the intensity you need to wrestle with,” McFarland said. “Our guys were too tentative, thinking too much instead of reacting. They weren’t as aggressive as they needed to be.”
The Wolverines are in the middle of a transition year. Seven of the 11 wrestlers who competed Saturday were freshmen or sophomores, and their inexperience may have been the cause of their troubles against Bloomsburg and American.
But youth didn’t seem to be a problem for sophomore co-captain Zac Stevens. Wrestling at 133 pounds, he won all three of his matches. He easily took 10-1 and 5-1 decisions against Bloomsburg and American and then came back from an early deficit to win a 6-4 decision against his Penn opponent.
“Even when I was losing, I felt like I was in control the whole time,” Stevens said. “Sometimes a couple of things go against you early in matches, but you can’t worry about them.”
After Saturday’s solid performance, Stevens is now 8-2 in just his second year in the program.
Biondo lived up to his No. 14 national ranking and finished 3-0 on the weekend. Phillips and redshirt sophomore Justin Zeerip were also impressive, winning two of their three matches.
The Wolverines will compete next at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in Primm, Nev. this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the guys respond to the weekend we just had and if they can use some of the momentum from the Penn match as a stepping stone for next weekend,” McFarland said. It’ll be another big step in our growth as a team.”