It’s been almost two years since the No. 4 Michigan wrestling team (1-0 overall) was able to wrestle in front of its fans in an energetic Cliff Keen arena.
And on Sunday, the Wolverines didn’t just wrestle. They put on a show, dominating Cal State Bakersfield (0-1) in a 39-3 triumph. Nine Michigan wrestlers won their individual bouts with five earning bonus points and two pinning their opponents.
The day’s wrestling started at the 125-pound weight class. Redshirt senior Jack Medley defeated the Roadrunners’ Eddie Flores, 15-9, in a fast-paced match that saw each wrestler hit reversals directly into four-point nearfalls. The difference maker for Medley was his prowess in the bottom position, as he ended the bout with three reversals that put him in the driver’s seat and earned him a decision victory. Medley’s win put the team up, 3-0.
The Wolverines received a forfeit at 133 pounds and went up 9-0 before dropping their only bout of the day at 141 pounds. Redshirt sophomore Pat Nolan’s third period comeback fell just short in an 11-8 loss to Angelo Martinoni.
The next two bouts both ended in major decision victories for Michigan and were indicative of the team’s dominance in the neutral position. At 149 pounds, graduate student Kanen Storr demonstrated his lethal single-leg attack, tripping and ankle picking his way to eight takedowns en route to a 17-6 victory.
At 157 pounds on the other hand, redshirt freshman Fidel Mayora took a different approach to scoring, using headlocks and snapdowns to bully his opponent into takedowns. The result of the bout was never in doubt, but Mayora’s victory acted as an energizer for the team as at the last moment he scored on a double leg takedown, making his victory a 12-4 major decision and earning the team an extra point to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 17-3.
“Super proud of Fidel,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said. “That one moment, he had a comfortable lead, he had already worked really hard and put a lot of points onto the board, but that mindset to keep building and be dominant, … that’s a mindset and an instinct you’ve got to have.”
Redshirt sophomore Cameron Amine won a tight defensive match at 165 pounds, 5-2, bolstered by two first period takedowns that added three points to the Wolverines’ score.
While the Wolverines had been dominant up to this point, the team shined the brightest in the upper-weight bouts.
It took 174-pound redshirt junior Max Maylor only 1:26 minutes to take advantage of a bad shot from his opponent, putting him in a tight cradle and earning the team its first pin of the night. Maylor’s victory acted as a spark plug for the team and brought the crowd to its feet.
At 184 pounds, redshirt senior Jelani Embree followed up Maylor’s pin with a convincing 13-3 major decision victory that saw him make frequent use of his single leg.
But of all wrestlers, 197-pound graduate transfer Pat Brucki shined the brightest for the Wolverines in his victory via fall. Ranked tenth in the nation, Brucki demonstrated that he is still the same wrestler who took fourth at the 2019 NCAA Championships — and likely better.
“He knew he wanted to get to his offense right away and wrestle a dominant, dominant style,” Bormet said. “And that’s what he did.”
Brucki came out of the gate swinging, scoring three takedowns and six nearfall points before putting his opponent onto his back,and bringing the crowd to its feet 4:16 minutes into the match.
To end the night, redshirt sophomore heavyweight Blake Querio gave the crowd a scare, barely avoiding being taken down in sudden victory before immediately following up with a takedown of his own to end the duel with Michigan ahead, 39-3.
As a whole, the Wolverines’ lineup is an interesting mix of veteran talent and fresh faces, and on Sunday it was apparent that this has an impact on the entire team.
“(The veterans) are really good role models,” Maylor said. “They live a lifestyle that we all try to live, they lead by example, and it’s good for the younger guys so they know what to do and what it takes to be at that level.”
Guided by its veterans, the team will continue to grow, and if Sunday’s victory portends anything, it will grow in the right direction.