“It was a tough weekend for us,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said about his team’s struggles at the Cliff Keen/NWCA National Duals in Cleveland this weekend.
After the Wolverines started off the dual season winning six of their first seven meets, they hit a collective bump in the road this weekend.
No. 4 Michigan went 3-2 in the dual meet tournament, with wins over Arizona State, Hofstra and Penn State and losses to Minnesota and Oklahoma. The Wolverines finished a disappointing seventh place in the 16-team field.
Throughout the tournament, Michigan was forced to forfeit the opening 125-pound weight class due to sophomore Jim Shutich’s inability to wrestle according to NCAA rules governing weight loss.
Unlike in their opening match against Arizona State, where Michigan was able to dig itself out of the hole created by the loss in the opening bout, the Wolverines could not come back against Big Ten rival Minnesota.
Michigan’s dual meet against the No. 8 Gophers started on a sour note for the Wolverines. Not only did they give up a forfeit at the 125-pound weight class, but usual standout Mark Moos was pinned in the 133-pound bout.
“After 133, we put ourselves in a huge hole, being down 12-0,” McFarland said. “We fought back though, to the point where it came down to that last match”.
That last match pitted No. 2 ranked heavyweight Greg Wagner of Michigan against No. 3 ranked Cole Konrad of Minnesota. With Michigan down 18-16, a win by Wagner would have given Michigan the dual meet win.
The match was low scoring, with Konrad picking up just two takedowns. Wagner was unable to score many points from the bottom position, which eventually led to Konrad’s 4-1 victory. The loss was Wagner’s first of the 2004-2005 season.
“Greg just didn’t wrestle his kind of match against (Konrad),” McFarland said. “Greg is a real athletic guy, and he needs to do things on the mat that will take advantage of that athleticism. (Konrad) is more of a push and shove kind of wrestler, and he was able to get Greg to wrestle his style. Greg just wasn’t aggressive enough out there.”
With the loss to Minnesota, Michigan fell to the consolation bracket of the tournament, where it seemed to turn its fortunes around with a 19-18 victory over No. 6 Hofstra.
Unlike in the Minnesota match, Wagner was able to deliver in the final match against Hofstra.
Michigan was down 18-13 going into the heavyweight bout, and another loss would have eliminated them from the tournament. But Wagner put an end to those thoughts with a pin over Hofstra’s Billy Simmons. This gave the Wolverines the six team points necessary for a win.
Michigan’s hopes of placing in the top four of the tournament ended with a 24-13 loss against No. 10 Oklahoma. Redshirt freshmen Josh Churella and Eric Tannenbaum lost close matches to Teyon Ware and Matt Storniolo, respectively. Churella was unable to get any points from the top position, which is usually his strength, while Tannenbaum could not convert consistently from the neutral position.
“Individually, each person has certain things that they need to improve upon as well,” McFarland said.
On a bright note, co-captains and 2004 All-Americans Ryan Bertin and Ryan Churella finished the tournament with perfect 4-0 records.
The Wolverines lineup was also missing a key cog this weekend – Willie Breyer was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Breyer had been coming on strong as of late with two victories over ranked opponents in the past two weeks.
“We’re a little banged up, and we didn’t have a full lineup this weekend,” McFarland said. “The bottom line is that you can’t go into a national dual tournament giving up weight classes. We need to get healthy for next week, and, hopefully we’ll be at full strength.”
Luckily for Michigan, it will have an opportunity to avenge one of its losses from this tournament next weekend when it travels to Minnesota to face the Gophers in a regular Big Ten dual meet. The Wolverines also face No. 13 Wisconsin on Friday night in Madison.