This Friday, the Michigan wrestling team will seek to dethrone one of the greatest programs in collegiate wrestling and the nation’s top-ranked team: Penn State (5-0 Overall, 1-0 Big Ten).
Emotions will be high in what is sure to be a packed Crisler Center as the eighth-ranked Wolverines (5-2, 2-0) attempt to cement themselves as a title contender.
After a shaky start to the season with a 27-9 loss to Lehigh, Michigan has righted the ship, racking up one impressive win after another. Two of those wins were complete shutouts, as the Wolverines blanked Oregon State and Indiana in back-to-back matches.
These statement wins only add to the excitement that comes with facing a top program. Michigan has proven it has the chops to dominate lesser teams, but can it come up big against elite competition?
Friday night’s event against the Nittany Lions will surely answer that question, with a slew of big-ticket matchups set to unfold. Highly-ranked wrestlers in nearly every weight class will face off, as matches in the 157, 165, 174, 184, 197-pound and heavyweight weight classes will feature a ranked wrestler from either team — including five matches between All-Americans.
This will undoubtedly be the toughest lineup Michigan has seen thus far, as Penn State has five returning NCAA champions. This season, these wrestlers all remain ranked in the top-two in their respective weight class.
“We’re just gonna have to wrestle tough,” said fifth-year senior Adam Coon. “There’s gonna be a lot of hard-nosed matches out there, so we just have to go out there and put everything on the mat. It’s gonna be a fun dual.”
To add to the big-match feel, this will be the first time that any of these wrestlers will compete in the Crisler Center.
“I’m excited,” Coon said. “I know a lot of the guys are excited because it’s the first time — in at least five years because in five years, we’ve never wrestled in Crisler.”
Something else these Wolverines have not seen is a win against Penn State. Michigan has come up short the last six times it has faced the Nittany Lions. Its last win against Penn State came before any of the current wrestlers were on the roster.
In preparation for this titanic showdown, the Wolverines have been hard at work and are now finishing up a week-long taper to assure the wrestlers are fresh for the event.
“We are always making adjustments as we go along,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “We are constantly evaluating team aspects, individuals and what the individual guys need — now we’re cutting back and making sure our guys go out there with a lot of zip.”
Michigan will need all the energy and effort it can get as Friday’s match will feature the highest ranked wrestling matchup on the Ann Arbor campus since 2010.
“For all the guys, it’s gonna be seven minutes with nothing but a great effort,” McFarland said. “You’ll see a lot of action, hopefully you’ll see a lot points getting put up on the board from both teams which makes for exciting individual matches. Give it a try, if you’ve never seen a collegiate wrestling match before, we’re gonna have a great crowd.”