The No. 11 Michigan wrestling team opened up its season Friday against Virginia as seven redshirt freshmen made their debut. For the Wolverines, their lackluster start in some matches proved to be an issue initially, but they responded in strength, ultimately resulting in a 24-9 win over the Cavaliers.
Virginia set the pace early, as Michigan redshirt freshman Austin Assad fell in the 125-pound match due to an early two-point takedown.
“Austin got into the position when he was starting to come back,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “He scored a takedown … and he wasn’t able to capitalize on it. It looked like his calf cramped up on him.”
But redshirt freshman Stevan Micic responded on behalf of the Wolverines with a decisive 14-4 victory over his foe. Defined by early takedowns paired with aggressive play, his match was a clear decision.
The roller coaster at the beginning of the dual meet continued as another redshirt freshman, Sal Profaci, fell to his opponent. This time, Virginia took an early offensive lead with multiple takedowns. Profaci responded in the third period though, fighting off takedowns and scraping together points to try to take the match. However, the effort was insufficient, as Virginia won the bout, 12-6.
But Michigan’s seven redshirt freshmen were successful overall, as Micic, Logan Massa, Myles Amine and Jackson Striggow each pulled out victories.
Then, the Wolverines’ more experienced wrestlers helped pad their lead as redshirt sophomore Zac Hall, a four-time Michigan state champion in high school, battled with his foe and squeaked out a late point to secure him the victory.
“I looked at the score and it was 2-2, and I saw I had some riding time,” Hall said. “I said I’m going to commit to trying to ride this guy and see where it goes.”
Fifth-ranked senior Brian Murphy swiftly ousted his matchup, scoring a late two-point reversal that would notch another win in his long record book.
The Wolverines began to win more consistently as the weight classes increased, as seen by Domenic Abounader’s 184-pound match. With an early 4-1 lead, he continued to build on the score, continually forcing his opponent onto the mat. He won the match 15-4.
“A lot of their guys started to wear out and get tired at the end of matches,” Abounader said. “I think that’s where you could accumulate a lot of points.”
The Wolverines finished the match out strong, ousting the Cavaliers by a score of 24-9. Michigan will look to capitalize on its aggressive, young offense as they begin its regular season.