EAST LANSING – The Michigan wrestling team’s match against Michigan State had just about everything a fan could hope to see between the rivals. Numerous matches went down to the wire, tempers flared during the heavyweight match when Michigan’s coaches accused the Spartans’ heavyweight of trying to injure the Wolverines’ already hobbled wrestler and the meet wasn’t decided until the very end.
But No. 16 Michigan State never relinquished its early lead, and pulled out a 16-15 win over No. 7 Michigan.
Rashad Evans gave Michigan State an early lead with a 6-1 decision over R.J. Boudro at 174 pounds. Willie Breyer got the Wolverines on the board with a 6-4 overtime decision over Nate Mesyn at 184 pounds. Breyer was losing 4-2 late in third period, but got a reversal to send the match to overtime.
Michigan’s Kyle Smith, ranked 17th, lost to No. 6 Nik Fekete 7-3, a wrestler Smith had handled in previous matches.
“Kyle doesn’t have a lot of confidence right now,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “This is his senior year, and he needs to make the best of it. He just wasn’t the aggressor out there today. It’s there – he just needs to decide when to pull the trigger.”
At heavyweight, the Spartans’ Mike Keenan upset Michigan’s No. 9 Greg Wagner with a 11-3 major decision. Midway through the third period, it appeared that Keenan had found a way to pin Wagner. But Wagner had hurt his ankle, and the referee changed the call to an injury timeout. Wagner stayed in the match, and Simmons went after Wagner’s leg, infuriating Michigan’s coaches.
With the momentum to Michigan State, No. 5 A.J. Grant came through for Michigan at 125 pounds. Tied at two with eight seconds left, Michigan State’s No. 7 Nick Simmons had a riding-time advantage which would have given him the victory. But with three seconds remaining, Grant scored a reversal to win 4-3.
“It was a tough match,” Grant said. “All I could do was hang on and wait for any chances he gave me. He got a little greedy at the end, and I just reached for that leg and held on right at the end for the two.”
Michigan’s 133-pounder, Foley Dowd, brought the Wolverines closer with a 13-7 decision over Shane Martin. Dowd took control with three takedowns in the first period.
With the Spartans’ lead cut to 10-9, the Wolverines hoped Clark Forward could give them the lead at 141 pounds. But Forward lost a tough match to Michigan State’s Ryan L’Amoreaux, 9-8. After an exciting first period when both wrestlers scored a takedown, followed by a two-point near fall, Forward found himself behind in the second period and couldn’t catch up.
The best match of the meet was between No. 5 Ryan Bertin of Michigan and No. 6 Gray Maynard of Michigan State. The match was tied at four after the third period, and neither wrestler could get a takedown in the first overtime. In the second overtime, Maynard only needed an escape, whereas Bertin needed to ride Maynard for the entire 30 seconds, which is much tougher. Maynard got the escape and gave the Spartans a 16-12 lead.
“Bertin wrestled a tough match,” McFarland said. “Those are two of top guys in the country at 157. It was a great match and came down to a 30-second ride. Ryan’s a competitor, and he’ll be back.”
The final match of the day was between Michigan’s Pat Owen and the Spartans’ Arsen Aleksanyan. Owen, filling in for an injured Mike Kulczycki, was coming off a huge upset on Friday when he pinned No. 6 Jacob Volkmann of Minnesota. But he also was hobbled with a bad ankle, and while he dominated the match and won a 5-0 decision, he was unable to get any near-fall points.
“It’s unfortunate both my 165-pounders right now are a little banged up,” McFarland said. “It was nice to see Pat get a win today. I was real happy with how he wrestled considering how sore his ankle was. It would have been nice to get a pin there at the end, but it just wasn’t in the cards today.”