DETROIT — With the score tied at one point apiece, Will Lewan and Jarrett Jacques headed to sudden victory.
Neither 157-lb wrestler could score in the first two-minute overtime period, sending the first-round match to tiebreakers.
Lewan started on top, riding for 25 seconds before Missouri’s No. 25 seed escaped. This meant that Lewan, now on bottom to start the second tiebreaker, had to escape in 25 seconds or less to capture a win or keep the match alive. Twenty-four seconds ticked by with Lewan unable to break free before the wrestlers veered out of bounds. Restarting in the center of the mat, Lewan had one last chance.
And with one second left on the clock, he made the most of it.
The 8th-seeded redshirt junior escaped, sending the bout to another round of sudden victory, in which he scored his first takedown of the day to secure the hard-fought victory.
“I saw there was one second, and I was like, I gotta do it, there’s time on the clock, I can do it, I can’t count myself out now,” Lewan said. “It’s NCAAs, anything can happen.”
The latter phrase summed up Lewan’s night pretty much perfectly. With two overtime thriller wins, Lewan’s combination of mental toughness and top-tier conditioning allowed him to succeed in the high-pressure overtime situations that he faced Thursday.
During the second slate of matches, Lewan pulled out another overtime victory against Iowa’s No. 9 seed Kaleb Young. After a scoreless first period, the bout continued at a crawl, leaving the score tied at one when the third-period clock hit zero. Nine seconds into sudden victory, Lewan scored a takedown to win the match and advance to the quarterfinals.
Lewan was not in an unfamiliar position in his two Thursday matches; he’s gone into overtime three times in the past two months. He emerged victorious in two of the three previous bouts, illustrating his ability to handle the pressure that comes along with sudden victory and tiebreaker situations.
“I have a lot of (overtime) matches, I’ve got myself ready for that,” Lewan said. “I’m definitely prepared.”
Preparation — both physically and mentally — is key in facilitating Lewan’s overtime success. Intense training and conditioning often allow Lewan to outpace and outperform opponents in the late stages of matches, when opponents are often unprepared and unable to keep up.
“We’re a tough team,” senior heavyweight Mason Parris said. “We like hard wrestling, we thrive in those moments. That’s what we practice for all year, that’s the culture around our team… If those matches are close, we’re gonna come out on top.”
Similarly, mental preparation is a crucial component of the Wolverines’ pre-match ritual, especially for big tournaments like the NCAA Championships. The team employs a sports psychologist who helps wrestlers stay mentally strong in stressful situations by reinforcing positive self-talk.
“I’ve been in a lot of high pressure situations in my wrestling career, so this is just another stepping stone, another piece of my journey,” Lewan said. “It’s NCAAs, yeah, but if I’m staying mentally strong, it’s not a problem figuring it out in these matches.”
Tight matches — though providing an opportunity to showcase the mental and physical toughness of the Wolverines — are not ideal in tournaments, especially when Michigan is vying for bonus points to stay in competitive standing.
Nonetheless, the most important thing for the Wolverines is finding a way to win, regardless of the circumstances. That’s exactly what Lewan did Thursday, and that’s exactly what he hopes to continue doing for the rest of his tournament campaign.