This time, Josh Weitzel didn’t end his team’s winning streak. He ended Minnesota’s hopes for a Big Ten championship.
The No. 7 Michigan wrestling team (3-0 Big Ten, 10-3 overall) has relied on its five nationally ranked middleweights to accumulate the majority of its points this season.
On Friday night, Weitzel lost to No. 9 Brady Reinke of Wisconsin and snapped a five-match streak by Michigan’s middleweights in the Wolverines 23-16 win over the Badgers in Madison.
But after the Wolverine middleweights — from No. 6 Josh Churella at 141 pounds to No. 12 Nick Roy at 174 pounds — built an 18-10 lead over No. 4. Minnesota yesterday, it was the unranked Weitzel who pinned 184-pounder Jeremy Larson to seal the win.
The 24-19 victory over the Golden Gophers kept the Wolverines undefeated in the Big Ten dual season and set up a showdown with No. 2 Illinois next weekend at Cliff Keen Arena.
The fact that just eight days earlier Minnesota (0-2, 6-6) had won the final three matches to come back from a 16-12 deficit and beat Michigan at the National Duals in Cleveland added to the drama. Weitzel had lost the first of those three matches, 3-1 to No. 7 Roger Kish, who was forced to sit out of yesterday’s rematch due to injury.
Yesterday, Weitzel entered the second period tied 2-2 and began in the down position. The sophomore quickly escaped, went on the offensive and took Larson down to gain an advantage in the match. Midway through the period, Weitzel caught the freshman in a nearside cradle and eventually got the pin with just eight seconds remaining in the period.
“It was nice to get that pin,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “Josh was using that cradle a lot last year and has gotten away from it a little bit. So, it was nice to see him go back to it this year. He got a nice pin for us, and it helped us a lot.”
Weitzel’s pin gave the Wolverines an insurmountable 24-10 lead with only two wrestlers left — even if Minnesota earned falls in both matches, it could only total 22 points.
Minnesota finished strong and earned one fall when freshman Matt Koz pinned senior Willie Breyer in the 197-pound match.
At heavyweight, No. 2 Cole Konrad earned his second consecutive victory over Michigan’s No. 3 Greg Wagner, 7-2. Konrad bested Wagner at the National Duals 4-1 and evened his career record to 2-2 against the Wolverine heavyweight.
“I don’t think Greg wrestled the kind of match that he needed to wrestle,” McFarland said. “He’s not wrestling this kid the way we want to see him wrestle. He’s got to get out and get a little more aggressive and score early in the match. He’s not making the scoring attempts that he needs to make.”
Minnesota jumped to an early 10-0 lead with an opening win at 125 pounds and a pin by No. 3 Mark Reiter at 133 pounds before running into Michigan’s core of middleweight wrestlers.
Sophomore Josh Churella got the Wolverines on the board with a win at 141 pounds before No. 7 Eric Tannenbaum (149 pounds) and No. 4 Ryan Bertin (157 pounds) earned major decisions that gave Michigan a narrow 11-10 lead.
No. 2 Ryan Churella earned a 6-0 victory over No. 10 Matt Nagel at 165 pounds, and Roy triumphed 14-4 for a major decision over Nik Lentz to push the lead to 18-10. Then Weitzel stepped up and extended the Michigan winning streak to six matches.
“I think Weitzel needed a win too,” McFarland said. “He had a tough match against Wisconsin on Friday, so it’s really nice to finish like this, especially for him.”
Despite Weitzel’s loss on Friday, Michigan used a Wisconsin forfeit at heavyweight and the five wins from its middleweights to cruise past the Badgers.
The two conference wins for Michigan set the stage for the biggest dual match of the Big Ten season, at home against Illinois next Sunday. With its second conference loss, Minnesota is now out of the running.
“I felt, for the most part, that the guys were wrestling pretty good,” McFarland said. “It keeps us in position where we can win the Big Ten dual season. We still have some tough matches ahead of us — the big one is going to be next week.”
Illinois finished second at last weekend’s National Duals, after taking No. 1 Oklahoma State down to the wire in a 22-15 loss in the championship match.
“We’re going to have our hands full with Illinois, but the good thing is that it’s in our own gym. Obviously, one of our goals is to win the Big Ten dual season, and then, as we head into the tournaments, to do well in both the Big Ten Championships and the NCAAs.”