COLUMBUS — The No. 2 Michigan men’s swimming and diving team sat on the bus headed to Columbus for a Big Ten battle against three conference foes: Penn State, Northwestern and Ohio State.
And after watching several other Michigan teams lose to Ohio State this season, the Wolverines together made a commitment to achieve one simple goal— beat the Buckeyes.
“For our team, it just seems like we’ve been watching all the other Michigan teams go into Ohio State and struggle,” senior co-captain Jamie Martone said. “We’re here to win and to show the state of Ohio that Michigan is dominant, and we’re not going to roll over and let them beat us in the pool.”
And the Wolverines didn’t. By the end of the two-day meet, Michigan had cruised to a 180-151 victory over the tenth-ranked Buckeyes — and beat the Nittany Lions and Wildcats, too.
The Wolverines won 12 of the 16 swimming events, took two of the top three finishes in nine events and swept the top three places in the 50- and 200-yard freestyle events.
The two-day meet, held at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion, marked Michigan’s 12th consecutive dual-meet win over the Buckeyes. Michigan leads the all-time series 63-11-2. The Wolverines’ last loss to Ohio State came in 1991, and their last loss to a Big Ten team was over two years ago against Northwestern in January 2007.
“I am very happy that we could represent all the teams at Michigan, and the guys did that,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said. “We were purposeful in winning this meet with fervor for the rest of the teams that have come down here and been treated disrespectfully.”
In fact, the Wolverines seemed to thrive competing in an unfriendly environment of screaming, scarlet-and-gray clad fans and Brutus Buckeye bouncing around the pool deck. Michigan won three of the four relays and finished Friday night’s meet with an exciting first-place finish in the 400-yard relay, beating Ohio State by three-tenths of a second.
After winning seven of eight swimming events to build a 47-point cushion over Ohio State on Friday, the coaches decided to make a few lineup changes, allowing some swimmers to swim new or different events. The changes allowed the Buckeyes to reduce Michigan’s lead by a few points, but their slight comeback on Saturday wasn’t something that concerned Bottom.
“It didn’t surprise me,” he said. “We knew that we had the meet, so we put a lot of guys in off events. We were just as strong Saturday as we were Friday, but we were just strong in a different way.”
Individual highlights for the Wolverines included junior Chris Brady winning the 200-yard butterfly and the 100-yard backstroke, an event he had not swam all season. Senior co-captain Matt Patton set a new pool record on his way to a win in the 1,000-yard freestyle and Martone won the 50-yard freestyle for the first time this season.
“It was fun to swim different things and explore other events,” Brady said. “But we’re pretty confident in everything that we do, and I think we knew we could come down here and give them a pretty good whooping and pound them pretty bad which I think we did.”
Michigan has one dual meet left against Michigan State this weekend before the Big Ten Championships at the end of the month. The Spartans have not beaten the Wolverines since the 1966-67 season.
As the defending Big Ten Champions and with wins in all five of its dual meets against conference opponents this year, Michigan is the clear favorite to win the title again this year. But the Wolverines are cautious not to let their success get in the way of their preparation for the Big Ten Championships.
“Someone mentioned the Big Ten meet is our meet to lose,” senior co-captain Bobby Savulich said. “Anyone can win it, and we all understand that. Even though people say we’re the favorite, not everyone is saying that, and we’re not going in that way.”