For weeks, all he could do was wait.
Forced out of action with a shoulder injury until last weekend in Las Vegas, 285-pound fifth-year senior Ben Apland, the man normally charged with closing the deal on a Wolverines’ victory, could only trust his replacements to do his job for him.
Now that he’s back in the lineup, Apland could do no wrong in his first action of the season, pinning both of his opponents in a doubleheader and helping the No. 14 Michigan wrestling team earn tri-meet victories over Duke and Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
“It feels great to be back and wrestling at Cliff Keen again,” Apland said. “It was a long wait.”
The entire team appeared to be in a rhythm, as the Wolverines jumped out to huge leads in both parts of the doubleheader. Despite sitting some of its normal starters and giving some of the backups opportunities to earn experience, Michigan defeated the Blue Devils, 30-14, in the first half of the doubleheader.
“We’ve had a lot of guys putting time in and training hard and when we have some opportunities to put some of those guys in, we need to get them match experience and we need to get them varsity experience,” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “So we had an opportunity to do that today and it was good.”
Sean Boyle, a 125-pound redshirt junior, started things off strong for the Wolverines, earning a technical fall to give Michigan five points. A pin by 165-pound Michigan freshman Taylor Massa gave the Wolverines a 24-3 lead, effectively putting the scoring out of reach, and Apland’s pin in under three minutes put an exclamation point on the victory.
“When we’re winning big when it comes into my match, it takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Apland said. “I can go out there and have fun like I try to do and I’m going to try to do for all of the dual meets this year.”
Michigan continued after a 15-minute intermission as it hit the mat against the Eagles. After a technical fall by 149-pound redshirt junior Eric Grajales, the Wolverines took a commanding 14-0 lead. Many new and different faces scored for Michigan, with redshirt sophomore Chris Heald winning his first match at the collegiate level, a 9-5 decision in the 184-pound weight class. Eastern Michigan put up a fight in individual matches, but the Wolverines were too much for the Eagles to handle as Apland’s second pin of the day in just 53 seconds capped off a 32-3 victory for Michigan.
Although the final scores showed that the Wolverines won with ease, the coaching staff wanted the wrestlers to focus as if the dual meets were tight.
“Whether we’ve got a big lead in the dual or whether it’s a tight dual, we need to be focusing on the same things from match to match,” Bormet said.
Whether Michigan has a big lead, a small lead or no lead at all in the dual meets of the future, it knows it will have Apland available in the 285-pound position, ready to close the door on more Wolverine victories.