It was a rocky road trip this weekend for the No. 12 Michigan wrestling team.

The Wolverines departed from Ann Arbor on Friday night to square off against No. 6 Ohio State, but they fell short in their bid for an upset. After a disheartening 24-13 loss in Columbus, Michigan headed to Nittany Lion territory in search of success. But Penn State handled the Wolverines easily, speeding to a 34-7 victory.

Michigan was sent home with a disappointing record. Of the 20 individual matches, the Wolverines claimed just six wins. It was a troubling weekend for Michigan as its season approached its end.

Their double loss follows a weekend where the Wolverines gave Michigan State a thrashing in their last Cliff Keen appearance.

But this weekend’s doubleheader appeared to be too much for the team to handle. For some it instilled a feeling of apprehension. But for others, like fifth-year senior Kellen Russell, it got them motivated.

“When I see a weekend like this, I’m excited about it,” Russell said. “(Everybody’s) got to be excited to wrestle out there, and I hope that’s how it is.”

The 141-pounder was the lone Wolverine wrestler to win both road matches this weekend. But by now, that’s just expected.

Why? Because he’s the defending national champion.

However, there comes a time when every champion is knocked down from the podium. That day came for Russell in early December against Buckeye Hunter Stieber at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

Naturally, Russell was anxious to take revenge in this weekend’s match-up. And though Stieber was in the lineup just two days before the meet, an unfamiliar face walked out onto the mat on Friday night.

Ohio State’s Jarrod Boone was the wrestler who took Stieber’s place to confront the No. 1 Russell. Boone fell in an 11-2 major decision to Russell’s multiple takedown attacks.

So what happened to Stieber? Russell heard speculation of injury, but no definite answer was found. All Russell can do it wait patiently for his opportunity to avenge his loss.

“I’m definitely a much better wrestler right now,” Russell said. “I was looking forward to the rematch.”

Following Russell was redshirt sophomore Eric Grajales, who left his opponent scoreless. He rode out Ohio State’s Cam Tessari, accumulated 2:26 in riding time and added a three-point tilt in the final second of the match.

After Grajales came split decisions. And then, with only a two-point deficit, Michigan felt it got robbed of a victory.

Fifth-year senior Justin Zeerip was tied 2-2 against Buckeye Nick Heflin at the end of the match. No. 8 Zeerip gained an escape and reversal on No. 7 Heflin in the tiebreaker, but Ohio State appealed the reversal call.

“The ref just took it away from him,” Russell said. “It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a ref just take the match away from a kid.”

Later that night, Jay Hammond, historian for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, tweeted: “I have been watching college wrestling for 50 years & the call in the 174 pound bout for UM v OSU is probably the worst I have ever seen.”

After that demoralizing call, the Wolverines couldn’t pull themselves out of the hole. On the contrary, Michigan fell deeper and deeper at Penn State, falling in a 34-7 loss.

Michigan’s nationally-ranked wrestlers had never been handled so aggressively this season. But the Nittany Lions demonstrated why they held the No. 2 ranking.

Alongside Russell’s victory against Penn State, senior Zac Stevens bounced back from a Friday night fall. Stevens accumulated four takedowns and a reversal in his 11-7 win in the 133-pound bout.

“I didn’t wrestle too well on Friday and I wrestled a little better today,” Stevens said with a laugh.

It’s a simple matter — you win or you lose.

In other words, “You have good days and bad days,” Grajales said. “It was one of the bad days today.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.