After a tough, eight-point loss to No. 22 Lehigh on Friday, the Michigan wrestling team stayed in the Keystone State for a shot at redemption.
They got it the next night with a commanding 22-15 win over No. 21 Penn, spurred by two impressive victories by Wolverine seniors, Michael Watts (125 pounds) and Tyrel Todd (197 pounds).
Even though both won their matches against Lehigh, neither was happy with their matches. Todd said he diverged from his techniques and instead, was out on the mat “brawling.” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said Watts didn’t wrestle a complete match against Lehigh.
“(Watts) wrestled hard for two periods and then shut it down,” McFarland said Saturday. “Today, he stayed on that kid the whole time and he came up with another big win.”
Against Penn, Watts improved his record to 6-0 and set the tone early.
In the first match, he scored three points for his team in a 10-4 upset of junior Rollie Peterkin, who was ranked seventh in the country at 125 pounds. Watts was up by eight points late in the match, which would have been a major decision and earned an extra point for his team, but at the end of the match Peterkin scored a reversal to keep it at a regular decision.
“He was ranked high, but I had beaten him a couple of times before,” Watts said. “The rankings did not have to do anything with the way I wrestled.”
Todd followed Watts’ lead, throwing his Penn opponent around before scoring a pin just two minutes and 44 seconds into the first period. The wins put Michigan up four points with just one match remaining, and put Todd just two victories shy of 100 for his career.
“Being part of the 100-win club is a prestigious thing,” Todd said. “It was one of my goals coming in here.”
The night before, against the Mountain Hawks, the Wolverines won two of the first three matches, but then dropped five of the last seven, losing their first dual meet of the season, 20-12. Michigan started off against Penn in similar fashion, winning the first two out of three, but also won the last four matches to keep their strong lead.
“Guys were wrestling through positions we weren’t wrestling through before,” Watts said. “A lot of the guys were coming off strong early and then kind of fading towards the end of the match against Lehigh.”
The second part of the Wolverines early-season road stretch starts next weekend when they head to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational on December 5-6. There, they will be focusing on wrestling the whole match and scoring the first takedowns.
“I didn’t sleep well last night,” McFarland said after Saturday’s win. “We didn’t really show everybody who we are (Friday) night, and I thought we did a better job of that today. We came back today with a lot of fire. Our guys were not happy. They came back and wrestled really hard and showed what they are capable of doing.”