With less than 30 seconds left in his match, one of the heroes of the Michigan wrestling team’s 23-13 win over Northwestern sprang into action. Trailing 3-2, the wrestler earned four points for a takedown and a near fall to propel the Wolverines in their first Big Ten dual-meet victory of the season, sending the Cliff Keen Arena crowd to its feet.

So who’s the hero? It was 184-pound redshirt sophomore Chris Heald, with a previous grand total of zero career Big Ten wins.

“I really wanted this one bad,” Heald said. “I knew if I kept attacking, one of these times I’d pull out and finish it.”

Heald’s attacking mentality paid dividends for Michigan and allowed the Wolverines to finally breathe a sigh of relief with a victory, having started conference play with a three-game dual-meet losing streak. Heald continuously attacked throughout the third period of his match, going for his opponent’s leg before finally converting on a standing cradle.

“That’s a huge improvement for him just because in the past he’s gotten into these pressure situations and hasn’t done well,” said Michigan assistant coach Donny Pritzlaff. “For him to do that and kind of put the dual in our favor, that was a huge step forward for him as a wrestler and our program.”

Before Heald stepped onto the mat, 165-pound freshman Taylor Massa provided a spark for both the Wolverines and the crowd. After the break for intermission, Massa relentlessly attacked his opponent, earning five near falls that earned 14 points, en route to a 16-0 technical fall at the 5:18 mark. To say Massa was excited about his efforts would be an understatement — he capped off his victory by urging the crowd to get louder with an emphatic flailing of the arms.

“I want a packed crowd every dual meet we have,” Massa said. “If I can go out there and score a lot of points, making the fans happy so they want to come back, I’m going to do anything I can to do that.”

The intensity of the crowd was much lower during the first portion of the meet, providing an atmosphere that Pritzlaff compared to a church. This quietness resulted from the fact that it looked as though there was a distinct possibility that Michigan would be headed to an 0-4 record in conference dual meets as Northwestern took a 10-6 lead into intermission.

Michigan 125-pound redshirt junior Sean Boyle and 149-pound redshirt junior Eric Grajales provided the scoring for the Wolverines in the first half, both earning decisions. In his match fraught with even play throughout the first period, Boyle eventually took over, earning a 5-0 decision with 2:45 in riding time. With his 8-2 decision, Grajales improved to 4-0 in Big Ten dual meets by jumping out to a big lead and never relinquishing control, maintaining a large riding time advantage and clinching an extra point by accumulating over three minutes by the end of the second period.

After Heald’s victory, 197-pound Michigan redshirt sophomore Max Huntley extended the lead for the Wolverines by earning a tight 4-3 decision. Huntley warded off repeated attempts to score by his opponent in the last minute to secure the victory. The meet concluded with a Northwestern forfeit in the heavyweight weight class.

With one Big Ten victory under its belt led by an unlikely hero, Michigan looks to build continued conference success next weekend with two away meets at Indiana and Purdue.

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