After the No. 11 Michigan wrestling team completed its first two Big Ten dual meets of the season in one weekend, the team could only wish that close counted in more than just horseshoes and hand grenades.

On Friday night, the Wolverines (0-2 Big Ten, 6-3 overall) hosted No. 17 Nebraska and allowed the Cornhuskers to escape with a 20-19 victory. Coming off the loss, Michigan made the trek to Madison, only to fall to No. 22 Wisconsin, 19-16, on Sunday. The Wolverines had various opportunities to win each meet, but could never win the matches that would get them over the hump.

“We weren’t executing, we weren’t attacking and that’s not how you win matches,” said Michigan assistant coach Sean Bormet. “It’s definitely not how you win close matches.”

On Friday, 165-pound freshman Taylor Massa got the scoring going for the Wolverines, pinning his opponent in 45 seconds with a bottom-leg cradle, giving Michigan a 6-3 lead after the second match of the night. The pin seemed to be the jumpstart the Wolverines would need, as a roaring crowd jumped to its feet as the ref signaled Massa as the winner. That lead quickly evaporated, though, as did the crowd noise, as Nebraska scored eight straight points to take an 11-6 lead. Before the intermission, 197-pound redshirt sophomore Max Huntley won a 3-1 decision for Michigan to keep the Wolverines competitive.

The tight back-and-forth competition that defined the weekend for Michigan continued after the break. Fifth-year senior heavyweight Ben Apland won his match with an 8-3 decision, followed by 125-pound redshirt junior Sean Boyle winning his match with a 15-7 major decision to put the Wolverines up 16-11. The momentum didn’t hold as the pendulum spun right back in favor of the Cornhuskers, who scored nine straight points off a pin and a decision. Though 149-pound redshirt junior Eric Grajales won a 3-2 decision to close the meet, it was too little, too late.

“The difference is being more aggressive earlier in the matches,” Grajales said. “Instead of building off of a lead in the second and third periods, we’re trying to make a comeback.”

Boyle continued his outstanding weekend for the Wolverines against Wisconsin on Sunday, earning a major decision by shutting out his opponent, 12-0, to give Michigan a quick 4-0 lead over the Badgers. But Wisconsin earned seven straight points in the next two matches before Grajales registered another major decision, defeating his opponent by a 14-6 margin.

The Wolverines came out of the locker room after intermission determined to rally for a conference win, as Massa and 174-pound redshirt junior Dan Yates recorded back-to-back major decisions, giving Michigan a 16-10 lead with three matches to go. Despite the Wolverines’ initial fire, the Badgers recorded three straight close decisions to take the 19-16 comeback victory.

The difficult weekend for Michigan was compounded by the fact that it only had one day to make adjustments after the Nebraska loss.

“Some guys made some good adjustments, and we had a few a guys who didn’t make those adjustments and they did make those same mistakes,” Bormet said.

The Big Ten dual meet schedule will not get any easier for the Wolverines, as they host No. 4 Iowa at Cliff Keen Arena on Friday night and then No. 18 Northwestern on Sunday.

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