When 174 lb graduate student Logan Massa stepped up to the mat on Friday night, those in the Crisler Center began doing something that’s generally supposed to be done elsewhere on campus.
With the score knotted at 10-10, it took only simple arithmetic for the average fan to calculate that the dual meet came down to No. 6 Massa.
With a win, Massa could propel the Wolverines to a narrow victory over Minnesota; with a loss, the teams would be put on a collision course aiming towards a tie and the complex tiebreaking calculus that would follow.
Three minutes into the match, Massa’s opponent, No. 20 Bailee O’Reilly, led 2-1 on the strength of a takedown, and the night’s outcome seemed to be wobbling in Minnesota’s direction.
But the tiebreaker wouldn’t be necessary.
Four minutes later — at the bout’s conclusion — Massa stepped off of his opponent, pumping his arms and waving to the raucous crowd. At that moment, everyone in the stadium knew that the dual meet was over, and Massa’s come from behind 7-4 victory was the decisive factor.
“Performances like that are what we’re looking for,” 184 lb graduate student Myles Amine said. “That’s what we can build off as a team and look to lift us up. (Logan is) a guy who wrestles hard for seven minutes and looks to dominate the match.”
For Michigan, Massa’s presence is huge. But the energy and talent he brings to the lineup was not guaranteed this season. From Massa’s Twitter, it is apparent that he fully intended for the 2020-2021 season to be his last, but his decision to return for a final semester has given Michigan a dominant, energetic wrestler who invigorates the rest of the lineup, and that has paid dividends.
At 174 lbs, Massa’s weight class is the first contest of the strongest part of the Wolverines lineup. So when Massa takes the mat, the dual meet is often as close as it will ever be, and the result always feels as if it is hanging in the balance.
But Massa consistently delivers.
Of his five dual meet matches, Massa has earned four victories, with two pins. Against Pittsburgh, Massa opened the dual meet with a pin, against Ohio State, his come from behind victory demoralizing the Buckeyes. And against Minnesota, his victory sank the Gophers.
“I love watching Logan wrestle, because he’s going to change the vibe of the dual in our favor, basically every time,” 197 lb graduate student Pat Brucki said. “Even in matches that he loses, it’s always a scrap because he’s just a psycho. He’s just looking for a fight, and that’s an excellent job of role modeling what we want to do in the back half of our lineup”
What is perhaps most impressive about how Massa wrestles is the grittiness with which he competes. He doesn’t give up easy points, and he refuses to let go of attacks, no matter how awkward the position becomes.
On Friday, there was an almost comical sequence where Massa had O’Reilly’s leg shelved on the edge of the mat. Lacking the space to take O’Reilly down in bounds, Massa lifted his opponent’s leg and pulled him back to the center of the mat. But O’Reilly scampered back to the boundary, so Massa simply repeated the move, and had to do so twice more before the sequence ended in a stalemate.
Later in the match, Massa seemed to be trapped in another repeating cycle. He would shoot, O’Reilly would leg pass, and the two would end up with Massa underneath O’Reilly, and O’Reilly upside-down, gripping Massa’s ankles. But every time, Massa refused to give up his position. He forced O’Reilly into uncomfortable positions, at one point dragging O’Reilly’s head along the mat until Massa could slip through the legs and score.
The positions Massa is willing to fight from, and in some instances out of, highlight exactly what he brings to the team. Tenacity.
Brucki best described Massa’s punishing style of wrestling.
“Honestly, he’s just a bully. That’s the lightest way to say it.”