It’s still early, but the Michigan wrestling team proved it’s more than ready to rumble, as it started off its season Saturday at the unattached Eastern Michigan Open.

The Wolverines finished the non-scoring event with 12 placewinners, including two individual champions.

“The point of these tournaments is to give the idea of what these guys need to work on, not only as individuals, but as a team collectively,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “I thought the young guys competed well and I thought returning guys looked pretty sharp.”

Redshirt junior Eddie Phillips was Saturday’s heavyweight champion, defeating Eastern Michigan’s David Wade 3-1 in the last second of sudden death. And redshirt sophomore Hunter Collins (184 pounds) knocked off Eastern Michigan’s Nick Whitenburg 7-4 in the finals to claim first place in his weight class.

“I think Hunter realized he needed to be more aggressive and that showed this weekend,” McFarland said. “He went out and scored a lot and he was attacking a lot and so that was good to see him getting back to what he does best.”

McFarland hopes the rest of the team will eventually emulate the scoring ability of Phillips and Collins, as the major setback the Wolverines showed this weekend was not cashing in on scoring opportunities.

“It’s no different than a football team in the red zone,” McFarland said. “When you get inside the 20, you’ve got to make sure you’re scoring touchdowns. It’s the same with wrestling. When you get an opportunity, you’ve got to make sure you capitalize and get your points.”

But McFarland and his players still saw Saturday as an overall success, especially for the freshmen and sophomores who make up more than half of the team this year.

Freshman Sean Boyle (125 pounds) finished third in the freshman/sophomore division. Sophomore Mark Weber was especially impressive, finishing in second place after moving down a weight class from 149 pounds to 141 pounds. Freshman Dan Yates (165 pounds) lost 9-3 in the first round and then went on to win his next seven matches, finishing with a 7-1 record and placing third in his collegiate debut.

“We are young,” McFarland said. “But the one thing I do expect is that when my guys step on the mat, they’re aggressive and they compete well, and to the best of their ability. Experience will come in time, but the fact that they’re working hard and they’re wrestling aggressively, those kinds of things are really important to me. We saw a little bit of that over the weekend, and we still need to continue to get better at it.”

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