Monday night’s dual meet between No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Arizona State was supposed to be many things. It was supposed to be a return to action for four Wolverine wrestlers, it was supposed to be an event that created excitement about both programs and the sport in general; at the bare minimum, it was meant to be an NCAA-sanctioned contest that could count towards both teams’ records. But most importantly, the dual was going to be the first major test of the season for the Wolverines and particularly for heavyweight graduate student Mason Parris.
But, just hours before the event and the marquee matchup between second-ranked Parris and third-ranked Cohlton Schultz was set to take place, the event came crashing down. In all too familiar fashion, the meet was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns within the Sun Devils’ program and replaced with only four matches, excluding Parris and Schultz.
So far, Michigan has looked nearly invincible in dual action, routing each of its three opponents and dropping only three individual bouts of thirty total along the way. The team promises to get even stronger with a new semester opening the door for the return of four graduate students: Parris, Myles Amine, Stevan Micic and 174 lb. Logan Massa.
Monday night was supposed to be the first opportunity for the Wolverines to prove their mettle: the Sun Devils are a strong opponent, with depth up and down the weight classes. They tout eight ranked wrestlers, including four in the top four, and convincingly topped seventh-ranked Virginia Tech earlier this season. Arizona State seemed poised to be the mirror through which Michigan could analyze itself and find weaknesses and deficiencies to correct. But sometimes mirrors break, and while Monday night’s action does give the Wolverines something to analyze, it’s clear that the mirror has been refracted. The culprit is once again Covid-19.
“We’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity over the past year and a half, so at this point I don’t think anything really surprises us… For the guys that got to wrestle we were really excited for the opportunity to compete, and for the guys that didn’t get to wrestle it gives them a reason to stay hungry,” said Amine “you kind of have to keep a fluid mindset and just be ready to deal with whatever comes.”
While the night’s mishaps were certainly deflating for Michigan, there are certainly a few things that it can take away from the night’s action, the first of which is that 184-lb. Myles Amine is as dominant as ever. In the night’s final match, Amine faced the Sun Devils’ Josh Nummer and demonstrated exactly why he won a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics this past summer: his explosive takedowns.
Nummer was unable to keep Amine in neutral even for a few seconds. By the end of the first period, Amine had amassed two minutes and 51 seconds of riding time, meaning the two only spent nine seconds in neutral during which amine scored two takedowns.,Aside from his dominance in neutral, Amine showed newfound capabilities on top, both in being able to ride out and turn his opponents, as he amassed eight points via tilts.
“I put more time this fall into my top game, that’s something that I’ve kind of taken for granted because I’ve been able to win matches on my feet,” Amine said. “But the coaches were hard on me, and I’ve got to thank them for that, because it has been paying off.”
The other takeaway from Monday’s action is that 141-lb. Stevan Micic still has a little rust to clear off in his folkstyle game. Before Monday, it had been almost two years since Micic last wrestled a folkstyle match, and while the Olympian never truly looked like he was in danger of being upset, his match with unranked Julian Chlebove was a little closer than he would’ve liked, ending 8-6. Micic looked strong in neutral positions and in scrambles, but was unable to turn or keep Chlebove down for long when he would get on top, characteristic of someone who has only wrestled freestyle for a few years.
“He had control the entire match, but I think there are some things that he would’ve liked to have done a little better tonight,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said. “He had some opportunities to go get a few more takedowns at the end of those periods. There are some things he’s got to adjust to. You know a little bit of folkstyle rust he’s got to shake off, but he’ll continue to calibrate himself day in and day out.”
For a return to action, Micic looked good, but he needs to fine tune the intricacies of folkstyle in order to win.
Monday wasn’t quite what either team wanted or needed as they each move into the home stretch of the season. But for Amine and Micic, the night wasn’t meaningless, and that momentum will be important as the wrestlers prepare for March.
“I’m going to take this match as some momentum, and see what takeaways I can take from it for the rest of the season.”