Despite a late rally that led to four straight victories, the Michigan wrestling team fell to in-state rival Michigan State 17-15 on Friday night in Ann Arbor. The defeat was the fifth straight for the Wolverines, who were coming off tough losses to Big Ten powerhouses Iowa and Minnesota.
The Spartans jumped out to an early lead after a couple major decisions, including the opening match, which ended in a 9-1 victory for defending NCAA champion at 133 pounds, top-ranked Franklin Gomez. The Spartans went on to win five of the first six matches with Michigan’s lone win in come-from-behind fashion by sophomore David Johnson at 157 pounds.
Michigan coach Joe McFarland knew how vital Johnson’s victory was if the Wolverines (0-3 Big Ten, 4-10 overall) had any chance of a comeback in front of a large crowd at Cliff Keen Arena.
“Dave won a big match for us,” McFarland said. “He found himself behind, but he did a great job in the third period, got a couple turns. That was a great win. We just need to get him a little more aggressive on his feet.”
Aggressiveness was a key factor in Michigan’s comeback bid. Early in the meet, the Wolverines relied mostly on escape points, allowing the Spartans (6-3-1 overall) to take more shots and earn most of the takedown points.
The momentum shifted after a big win at 184 pounds by freshman Hunter Collins over Michigan State’s Nick Palmieri. Collins knew how important his win was as Michigan went on to win the final three matches, but did not want to take all the credit for the ensuing rally.
“I’m here to win matches,” Collins said. “And I’m always going to do as much for my team as I can. If it started a little snowball, that’s great. My goal is just to win every match regardless of what’s going on around me.”
All three freshmen in Michigan’s lineup earned victories against the Spartans, showing signs of a bright future for the Wolverines. The last of those wins came in the final match at 125 pounds by Sean Boyle, who was able to put a tough weekend behind him to earn an important win.
“I’m still trying to prove myself, and we’re still trying to get ready for Big Tens and NCAA’s,” Boyle said. “So I put those matches behind me, and I’m happy about a good win today.”