The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry began on the gridiron and has diffused to every other interscholastic sport.
The crowd was enveloped in a compelling game of tug of war whenever the Ohio State fans found something to be excite about, a Wolverine would put a stop to the run. It took a Wolverine from Washington to bring sanity to the dual meet between the two wrestling teams.
Cliff Keen is the perfect setting for such a rivalry, magnifying noise because of its small size and arched ceilings. Though the Wolverines seemed to have more fans, the Buckeye faithful were more vocal for the majority of the match.
Even the national anthem singer was wearing a red Ohio State wrestling shirt.
Though the arena was only three-quarters full, the close match between two heated rivals made it seem as imposing as either the Big House or the Horseshoe.
While this was not the biggest match of the year for the Michigan wrestling team, Ohio State and its fans nearly made it the Wolverines” biggest disappointment.
The Buckeye fans and wrestlers were charged throughout the afternoon, and the Michigan team, and faithful, struggled to keep up.
With the Buckeyes leading 18-10, Washington native Otto Olson pinned Ryan Hieber, injecting new life into the Michigan fans in attendance. In such an emotional rivalry, crowd noise can be crucial sometimes even the deciding factor in a meet.
“I think it took a little wind out of Ohio State, going into that last match,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said.
Besides the large contingent of red-clad Ohio State fans, a group of around 200 people from tiny Archbold, the hometown of Michigan 141-pounder Clark Forward made the 88-mile drive to see their favorite Wolverine.
“Everybody in our area knows Clark, simply because of the success he had in high school,” said Chuck Forward, Clark”s father and high school coach.
Forward is one of three Michigan starters from Ohio the others are 149-pounder Mike Kulczycki and 184-pounder Andy Hrovat.
“There are a lot of people in Ohio who don”t like me, or don”t like Mike or don”t like Clark because we came up here to Michigan,” Hrovat said.
At the beginning of Forward”s match, the Maize and Blue had regained control of the bleachers after two Wolverine victories, but three consecutive Ohio State victories brought the tug-of-war rope a little closer to Columbus.
There was no compassion shown to the Wolverines, from Ohio or not. Throughout the match, jeers could be heard from the stands towards the Michigan team and the referee. The Ohio State fans had come in full force, and they fully expected their grapplers to add another victory to their 15 match streak.
In all five matches after the intermission, the entire Ohio State team stood and cheered every move on the mat.
When Michigan finally won, the Ohio State fans had been silenced and order in Cliff Keen seemed to have been restored.
“There were a lot of people here to watch some good wrestling,” Olson said. “They weren”t disappointed, I hope.”