“(Iowa’s) atmosphere there is unreal,” said 197-pound fifth-year senior Kevin Beazley. “Their fans are ruthless.”
That is the atmosphere the seventh-ranked Michigan wrestling team had to face Saturday night. Any dual meet against a top five team is difficult, but facing the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes in their venerated Carver-Hawkeye Arena is another task entirely.
The Wolverines didn’t start the meet with any particular gumption, as three out of their first four matchups ended in defeat. The run included a technical fall in the first match at 125 pounds by third-ranked Hawkeye Spencer Lee against freshman Drew Mattin and 149-pound redshirt sophomore Ben Lamantia getting pinned in the second period by second-ranked Brandon Sorensen.
From a team perspective, the lone bright spot for Michigan in those four matches was 133-pound redshirt sophomore Stevan Micic, who won his match by major decision.
Heading into the fifth match the Wolverines were down 14-4 and every bit lifeless.
Coming alive however, redshirt junior Alec Pantaleo shifted the tide with a two-point takedown and two-point reversal consecutively, to win 5-2.
“I don’t think he wrestled that first period the way he wanted to,” said coach Joe McFarland. “I’ll tell you what he did a great job of though, is he rode that kid the second period. I think that put him in the driver’s seat. He accumulated his riding time and opened it up a little more in the third period. That was a big win for us.”
Even though Michigan saw a 14-7 deficit heading into the visitor’s locker room at the halfway point, spurred on by Pantaleo’s performance, the second part of the lineup began to shift the momentum in its direction.
“We were pretty calm going into halftime,” Beazley said. “We knew they had some studs that could put up some points against us, but we knew where our horses were and that we could finish strong.”
The Wolverines’ “horses” came through in a big way. Excluding a loss by 165-pound redshirt sophomore Logan Massa in a close match, Michigan won the last four matches to close out the dual meet.
Among these were three highly anticipated matchups. Following a win by 174-pound redshirt sophomore Myles Amine, and Domenic Abounader — a fifth-year senior and the fifth-ranked wrestler in the 184-pound weight class — won his matchup against No. 20 Mitch Bowman by a score of 4-1.
Arguably the biggest result of the night however came in an upset win by Kevin Beazley over No. 5 Cash Wilcke. It was a back and forth match with takedowns from both wrestlers throughout the first two periods. Ultimately, Beazley was able to score an escape in the third period and clinch a victory by a single point.
“I knew 197 was going to be really close,” McFarland said. “We felt we could control 174, 184 and even heavyweight. We knew 197 was going to be one of those toss-up matches. We knew it was going to be a great match, and I thought Kevin did an exceptional job.”
Now down by just two points, the Wolverines sent out their ace, heavyweight Adam Coon, to take control of the meet once and for all. The fifth-year senior was able to score a pivotal takedown early in the first period that proved too much for the third-ranked heavyweight in the country, Sam Stoll, to overcome.
The victorious finale — thanks to Coon — was enough to push Michigan over the line and leave Iowa City with an upset win, 19-17.
“Carver’s a hostile environment,” McFarland said. “It’s a loud crowd. It’s a tough place to win. But I’m proud of the way the guys did it. We did it the tough way. We did it the hard way. We were able to dig down deep and win those matches we needed to. It’s nice to come away with a win. I’m proud of the guys.”