For the Michigan wrestling team, every time a wrestler has suffered an injury (and it’s happened more times than the Wolverines would like), another wrestler has been able to step in.
So when fifth-year senior Mike Kulczycki sprained his ankle Feb. 1 against Northwestern, it was no surprise that redshirt junior Pat Owen was ready to return from his MCL sprain.
And given a chance to get right back in the lineup, the 165-pounder has made the most of his opportunity. Owen has gone 3-1 since his return, including pins against Minnesota’s then-No. 6 Jacob Volkmann and Ohio State’s No. 4 John Clark. The latter pin clinched an upset over the fifth-ranked Buckeyes last Sunday.
Owen is one of the Wolverines’ most aggressive wrestlers, and always goes right after his opponent; his pin against Volkmann came just 1:38 into the match. He wrestled the same way against Clark, but couldn’t get an early takedown. After a scoreless first period, Clark may have expected Owen to be tired and frustrated, but that wasn’t the case. Owen stayed aggressive and scored two takedowns, finally finishing the match with a pin.
Sunday’s pin was especially important to Owen because it followed up a disappointing loss to Penn State’s Doc Vecchio the night before. Owen was his usual attacking self in the first period, and had a commanding lead heading into the third period. But Owen ran out of gas and allowed Vecchio to steal the win.
Despite that hiccup, Michigan coach Joe McFarland doesn’t want Owen to change his style at all. If he did, results such as Sunday’s wouldn’t happen.
“He’s one of our most aggressive wrestlers, and I really like that,” McFarland said. “He went out extremely hard Saturday but hit a wall in the third period. But Sunday against Ohio State, he was in control of the match. He paced himself well and was ready to pounce when he got his opportunity in the second period.”
Senior A.J. Grant came away impressed with Owen.
“Pat usually comes out real strong, but then he tends to lose his momentum throughout the remainder of the match,” senior A.J. Grant said.
“I don’t know where that move (against Clark) came from. Pat is pulling some stuff out of somewhere – I don’t know what’s going on. That kid just put himself in a weird position, and Pat just laid on him. It was nice.”
Owen’s aggressive style has given him an excellent chance to be in the lineup in the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Once Kulczycki recovers from his ankle injury, he and Owen will wrestle-off at 165 pounds. There is also a possibility the loser and R.J. Boudro will wrestle-off at 174 pounds.
With just one dual meet remaining before Big Tens, Owen feels fresh, and he has his injury to thank for that.
“I’ve come into these last two weeks with a nothing-to-lose attitude,” Owen said. “That down time gave me a bit of a revival. Sometimes I think a little time off can help. I obviously didn’t want to miss a month in the middle of the season, but it really helped me as far as focusing, realizing where I want to be at the end of the season and what I need to do to get there.”