STATE COLLEGE Three points.
In the sport of wrestling, three points are awarded for a minor decision. But after Saturday”s quarterfinal of the Cliff Keen National Wrestling Duals, the denomination is engrained in the Michigan wrestling team”s minds as a distinction.
And most significantly, that distinction denotes the margin separating Michigan from the nation”s most prestigious program.
After defeating No. 22 Virginia Tech in the preliminary round of the tournament by a score of 35-6, No. 6 Michigan fell to No. 3 Iowa 20-18 in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Minnesota knocked off No. 1 Oklahoma State 20-12 to earn the championship trophy and Iowa went on to defeat Iowa State to garner third-place honors.
Relegated to the consolation bracket, the Wolverines proceeded to prevail over Nebraska-Omaha and Lehigh, 37-6 and 22-16, respectively. After a subsequent 22-16 defeat at the hands of No. 4 Iowa State on Sunday, Michigan squeaked by No. 5 Oklahoma in a 19-19 thriller to finish in fifth place.
Because of the knotted score, the final match against the Sooners was determined by a tiebreaker. Michigan received the edge and fifth place by tallying two reversals to Oklahoma”s one.
In their most anticipated match of the season, the Wolverines took six out of ten weight classes from Iowa, the Hawkeyes recorded the two-point victory by virtue of the bonus points it had earned.
After the match opened with two pins and two major decisions in Iowa”s favor, Michigan found itself looking up from a 20-3 abyss from which it never recovered.
“When you look at the final score, those were two big pins for us,” Iowa coach Jim Zalesky said.
Facing a 20-3 deficit, Michigan”s 165-pounder, Charles Martelli, strode out to meet No. 4 Ben Shirk at the center of the mat. In the closing seconds of a deadlocked contest, Martelli slammed his opponent to the mat, and the referee smacked the mat to signal the pin and six points for Michigan.
But upon discussion, the verdict was controversially reversed. Martelli was awarded a near-fall and a 4-2 win, while Michigan was awarded three points instead of six.
“I though it was a pin,” McFarland said. “I thought it was right at the buzzer, which would”ve given us the fall. It was a huge call it determined the outcome of the match.”
In an impressive comeback effort, Michigan swept the final three weight classes with minor decisions, but the bonus points, the pins that were and the pins that weren”t, cemented the 20-18 Hawkeye victory.
“The thing about Iowa was that our guys proved to themselves that we can wrestle with the top teams in the country,” McFarland said. “If we get a few more breaks, do a few more things to win a match or two, we can beat them next time.