As he stepped onto the mat, fifth-year senior Kevin Beazley knew he had the most daunting challenge of the day.
The 197-pounder was the only Wolverine facing a nationally ranked wrestler during Michigan’s matchup against Oregon State. Tensions rose throughout Cliff Keen Arena as the wrestlers squared off, but all doubt was quickly erased as Beazley pinned the 11th-ranked Corey Griego in the middle of the first period.
The match started off poorly for Beazley, who was taken down by Griego early in the round. Beazley responded in kind by quickly escaping and then taking down Griego before grinding out a hard-earned fall. Beazley inevitably won with a left-handed headlock.
“That was a great moment,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “He had to dig his heels in and really drive through that — but he stayed tough and kept driving and driving through it and was able to get him on his back and secure the pin.”
This match was largely indicative of the meet as a whole, as every wrestler found his hand raised by the referee at the end of his match. Michigan looked dominant from start to finish as the Wolverines shut out the Beavers, 48-0. In total, the meet contained two falls and three technical falls, a feat which helped the Wolverines (2-1) earn a statement win for the program.
Michigan had suffered a sluggish start to its season after squeaking by 11th-ranked Arizona State, 21-18, and losing big to 10th-ranked Lehigh, 8-27. However, the Wolverines are showing signs of a massive momentum shift after an impressive showing at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and a shutout win against Oregon State (2-1).
“Against Lehigh, we got punched in the face,” McFarland said. “We got beat on basic fundamentals out there, we got beat on mat wrestling, and so we’ve been working a lot on those areas — and we saw a lot of that today.”
The numbers corroborate McFarland’s claim, as no Wolverine wrestler trailed at the end of any period throughout the meet.
Another bright spot in Michigan’s performance can be found in freshman 157-pounder Reece Hughes. Hughes’ redshirt was pulled as he subbed in for the injured redshirt sophomore, 165-pounder Logan Massa. Not only did Hughes win his collegiate debut, 5-0, but he did it while wrestling up a weight class.
“I’m real proud of him,” McFarland said. “It’s tough — you go out there for the first time, in a Michigan singlet, in front of the nice crowd, but he stayed totally focused, was on task and did a great job.”
From here, the Wolverines have a break until they begin Big Ten play on Jan. 5. McFarland wishes to continue along this positive track through the break and further refine his wrestlers’ abilities.
“This break is going to be awesome,” Beazley said. “We get to break down some technique and keep getting better. Focusing on getting better mentally, getting better physically and just improving every time we step on the mat.”
The Wolverines’ shift in momentum may also be attributable to the friendly rivalry that exists within the Michigan squad. The wrestlers frequently compete with each other to see who will earn the most points in a given meet or even score the most falls in a season.
“I think the biggest thing is feeding off of each other,” Beazley said. “We had a little bit of trash talk going in the group chat — and we just feed off each other, so we’re just pushing each other and having fun when we’re out there.”