Sometimes, success in sports can come down to one thing: Having fun.
Michigan freshman wrestler Dan Yates learned that over the past two weeks.
After losing his first-ever career collegiate match at last weekend’s Eastern Michigan Open, Yates realized that his biggest problem had nothing to do with mechanics or training.
“I went out last week for the first match and kind of took everything too seriously,” Yates said. “It didn’t end up going well in the first match. Today I just came out and wanted to have fun, relax a little bit, and not take things so seriously.”
Since his opening loss, Yates has won 12 straight matches over the course of two tournaments. On Sunday, he came out relaxed and won the 165-pound freshman/sophomore weight class at the annual preseason Michigan State Open.
“He got a little too excited for that first match and let his emotions get the best of him,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “I think he was much more relaxed coming into this tournament.”
Yates defeated Kyle Yang of Ohio University by decision (6-1) to capture the title.
Redshirt junior Anthony Biondo experienced similar success at the MSU Open.
Following a second-place finish last week at Eastern Michigan, Biondo headed to East Lansing looking for a title. And that’s exactly what he got.
After winning by pin in the first three rounds of the open 197-pound weight class, Biondo won his final match by decision (7-6) over Andrew Kissel of Purdue.
“He’s got all the tools to succeed,” McFarland said. “When he’s wrestling and scoring like he did today, he is really tough to beat.”
Biondo has emerged as a leader for the young Wolverines, whose lineup consists of mainly freshmen and sophomores.
Sophomore Zak Stevens is also stepping into a leadership role this season. On Sunday, Stevens placed third in the open 133-pound weight class.
“Zak is a warrior on the mat, and he just keeps getting better and better,” McFarland said. “He is going to be a great example for the rest of the team.”
While a few growing pains are to be expected due to the young roster, success in these early events certainly helps.
“We’re taking some things from these early season tournaments, but we need to continue to make sure that we’re scoring early and scoring often,” McFarland said. “We need to continue to get better.”