DETROIT — Two weeks ago, Cam Amine faced Iowa’s Alex Marinelli in the Big Ten championship. Amine lost.
It was a tight, low scoring and gritty match in which neither wrestler earned a takedown, but Marinelli was the better wrestler. He was the match’s aggressor, pushing Amine out of bounds and controlling the center, and because of this, he won 2-1. An escape and a stall point being his only offense.
On Friday in Day Two of the NCAA Tournament, Marinelli, nicknamed “the bull” and Amine, the 165-lb redshirt sophomore, met once again. And in many ways the meeting unfolded as a carbon copy of the Big Ten Final. It was once again tough, handfight heavy and low scoring, but there was one key difference.
This time Amine won.
“That was an outstanding match by Cam,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said. “He was on his offense. With twenty seconds left when he hit that double, that was right where he needed to be, in on his leg attack. Even though he only finished one of those, that was his best offensive match.”
The match started with Amine on the backfoot and Marinelli doing exactly what he had done in their previous meeting, dominating handfights and controlling center. At one point, Marinelli had Amine in a headlock and forced him to step out, resulting in a stall warning; his plan was working, another win by bullying was possible.
But quickly after, Amine found his rhythm. He avoided snapdowns, battled for ties and found opportunities to set up shots. Nothing would come of the attacks, but it was clear that things had evened out. Marinelli was no longer charging Amine off the mat; instead he had to play defense.
As the match dragged on, the tension built. Neither wrestler could break through. There was a sequence where Amine had Marinelli’s leg hiked for what felt like an eternity, but he was unable to finish and the match stayed even.
With four seconds left, the two went out of bounds and the match restarted at center. But neither wrestler moved — the winner would be determined in overtime, and neither Amine nor Marinelli seemed averse to that idea.
In sudden victory, both found a new gear. Early in the period, Amine fired for a leg attack that resulted in a scramble, but once again neither wrestler could take control.
The bout was so even that it seemed almost inevitable that it would go to tiebreakers. But with twenty seconds left in the period, Amine stopped bothering with tie ups. He fired a blast double from distance, lifted both of Marinelli’s legs, and ran right through him, good for a takedown and the victory.
With his victory, Amine not only kept his individual title hopes alive, but those of his team as well. If Michigan is to win, it is performances like Amine’s that will be its backbone. Grinding, harsh, upset victories that result from wearing the opponent out over time.
Michigan has had wrestler after wrestler win in overtime during this tournament, to the point where it feels like more than a fluke. Michigan’s wrestlers seem better prepared when it comes to overtime, and a lot of it comes down to their mindsets.
“They believe in themselves and they believe in their training,” Bormet said “… They just keep wrestling hard and fighting through adversity on the mat and finding ways to get their hands raised.”
Unless they meet again in the consolation bracket, Marinelli and Amine will end the season having traded victories. But in Amine’s view, trading a Big Ten title loss for a shot at an NCAA title is a good deal.
“That’s the one I wanted,” Amine said. “He beat me at Big Tens, and the Big Tens are a goal of mine, but I’d rather win this one.”
Amine’s bout was a bullfight, and this time, the bullfighter won.