Coming into the season, the No. 3 Michigan wrestling team’s goal was to win a national championship. Sunday, that cause suffered its first blow as the Wolverines lost to No. 14 Oklahoma.
Despite the setback, Michigan is still optimistic about the rest of the year, confident that its goal can still be achieved.
“I want to win a Big Ten championship and a national championship, and if we come up short I’ll be very disappointed,” said junior Domenic Abounader.
Abounader, last year’s Big Ten champion in the 184-pound weight class, is one of nine starting Wolverines who qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year.
Another such Wolverine is junior Adam Coon, who is the national runner-up in the 285-pound weight class. Coon, one of seven starting upperclassmen, feels the experience of the Michigan grapplers will help the Wolverines rebound.
“Guys are really experienced on the team,” Coon said. “We’ll bounce back from this. We’re going to train a heck of a lot harder than we’ve been training.
“Upperclassmen have been at the college level before. They know what to expect, the college season grind. This is different than high school. All the upperclassmen are here to really help and make sure the freshmen are in shape and ready to go at all times.”
In addition, Coon said the freshmen are pushing the upperclassmen as hard as the upperclassmen are pushing the freshmen. The freshmen want to make sure the upperclassmen don’t become too content with their experience.
“It's just a great atmosphere to have in the practice room,” Coon said.
Michigan is no stranger to rebounding from early-season losses. Last year, the Wolverines suffered an early loss to Edinboro before eventually finishing eighth in the NCAA Tournament. And two years ago, the Wolverines rebounded from an early-season loss to unranked Kent State, only to later defeat No. 2 Minnesota, No. 7 Nebraska and No. 6 Pittsburgh, with the last two being on the road.
Looking ahead to the team’s next meet, Michigan coach Joe McFarland sees much room for improvement, but remains cautiously hopeful.
“A lot of the matches that we lost, we didn’t have that attitude we needed to wrestle with tonight,” McFarland said. “In a lot of those matches, those guys came out and took it to us. They set the pace, they got their offense going right away, they got us reacting to them, and that was the difference in the dual.”
The Wolverines’ next chance to redeem themselves is at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Like McFarland said after the loss, it’s early in the season. Losing was disappointing for Michigan, but if history is any indicator, it won’t slow the Wolverines down.