EAST LANSING — Wrestling in his second road meet of the weekend at Michigan State, freshman George Fisher felt more at home than he did during trips to Las Vegas in mid-December, Tennessee to begin the new year and Minneapolis for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota.
East Lansing provided the closest thing to a home crowd since the last time the No. 15 Michigan wrestling team wrestled in Ann Arbor, back in November.
Friday in Minnesota, Fisher lost a major decision to fourth-ranked Golden Gopher and redshirt junior Nick Dardanes. Michigan lost the meet 20-19.
“Minnesota was definitely a different experience,” Fisher said. “I knew Nick (Dardanes) before coming up here. We wrestled together when we were little, and I always looked up to him. The crowd was a little intimidating, and I just didn’t get to my offense as I should have.”
Following the tough loss on Friday, Michigan traveled to East Lansing on Sunday afternoon. Fisher gave them all the spark they needed to avoid falling to 0-2 in the Big Ten.
Despite a late Spartan rally, Michigan beat Michigan State, 28-9, capturing its first conference win.
“Our goal coming in today was to win all 10 matches,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “Obviously we came up short, but it was a good effort.”
A 6-0 Wolverine lead was already in place when Fisher took to the mat for his 141-pound matchup against 11th-ranked Spartan Javier Gasca.
This time Fisher didn’t falter. He channeled the evasiveness that earned Michigan its first two match wins, and surprised the crowd by repeatedly twisting out of Gasca’s hold. At the end of period one, Fisher held a 6-3 lead.
Gasca, seemingly fueled by the Spartan faithful packed inside Jenison Field House, came out for the final periods faster and more energized, but Fisher had him hooked, taking the match 10-8.
Sunday in East Lansing, the closing seconds of the match between Fisher and Gasca ticked away with Gasca failing to gain an edge. When the buzzer sounded, Fisher had been just quick and strong enough to upset his ranked opponent, 10-8, earning the win and extending the Wolverines’ lead.
“It’s nice to be home, my parents were here and it was a little more relaxed,” Fisher said. “It was nice just to be back in Michigan, to have a home crowd here with fans cheering.”
They did cheer, and never more loudly than during Fisher’s match. The win was the most significant of the day, nurturing a wave of momentum that started with the first match win at 135-pounds and crested to a 22-0 Michigan advantage before Michigan State was able to win a match.
“The Big Ten is obviously a very competitive conference,” McFarland said. “Now Sunday we have Ohio State in Ann Arbor, so we’ve got to be ready to go.”
As competitive as the conference may be, Fisher has little doubt that the Wolverines can rise to the challenge.
“To be honest, I feel like we’re one of the best teams in the Big Ten,” Fisher said. “We’re a great team, we just have to believe in that.”