Once again, the No. 10 Michigan wrestling team found itself trailing a ranked opponent in the second half of a meet. And once again, the Wolverines rallied to win.
Michigan defeated No. 13 Illinois, 25-14, and erased a 14-8 deficit with four matches to go. The Wolverines’ victory comes directly on the heels of a 21-11 triumph over then-No. 6 Ohio State on Jan. 9 — a meet in which Michigan trailed, 11-9, after the sixth bout.
“If we’re coming in at 184 (pounds) and the dual is tied, we’re going to win the dual,” said sixth-ranked, 197-pound, sixth-year senior Max Huntley. “There was no way that we were going to lose two of the three (matches) at that weight class.”
It all started in the 174-pound class when redshirt freshman No. 16 Davonte Mahomes earned a 12-3 major decision over Emery Parker. Mahomes scored five takedowns and accumulated 1:39 of riding time during the bout.
“At the 174 (pound) match, I looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘we have to win this match,’ ” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “It was good to see (Mahomes) go out there and really take control and dominate that match.”
The Wolverines took the lead when No. 10 junior Domenic Abounader earned two takedowns in the third period en route to an 8-2 victory over Jeff Kopke at 184 pounds.
But it was Huntley who sealed the match for the Wolverines. He pinned Jeff Kopke 2:39 into the match to give Michigan an insurmountable 21-14 edge. No. 4 junior heavyweight Adam Coon put the cherry on top, earning an 11-2 major-decision win against No. 19 Brooks Black.
“We’re getting the work done in the practice room and it’s showing up on the mat,” Coon said. “We’re definitely happy with our performances, but we’re never satisfied.”
Yet Michigan’s final four wrestlers were not the only ones to shine Friday. No. 19 redshirt junior Conor Youtsey opened the meet with a 25-10 technical-fall victory over Francis Edelen at 125 pounds. The performance gave the Wolverines a 5-0 lead at the time.
In spite of the win, there were a few moments Michigan would probably like to forget.
In the 157-pound class, No. 5 junior Brian Murphy suffered a technical-fall defeat at the hands of No. 1 Isaiah Martinez 4:44 into the bout, turning an 8-6 Wolverine lead into an 11-8 deficit. Also, redshirt sophomore George Fisher lost his match against Brock Ervin, 8-6, which gave the Fighting Illini a 6-5 edge.
With a matchup against No. 1 Penn State on Jan. 31, as well as Big Ten and NCAA championships looming, McFarland was quick to point out areas where Michigan needs to improve.
“In some cases, we allowed guys to slow us down,” McFarland said. “We want high-paced, inspired wrestling. We have guys who are capable of doing that, but right now we don’t have all 10 guys doing that. We need to get there.”