This season, there’s been an additional factor motivating the Michigan wrestling team to compete at its best week in and week out and it’s exactly what you would expect: a toy hammer.
A replica of Thor’s hammer to be exact.
Mjolnir, the name for this fearsome hammer, is wielded by the Norse god of thunder, Thor, and is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of strength in existence. Capable of leveling mountains, the fabled tool struck fear into the eyes of the beholder and propelled Thor into eternal notoriety, a legacy that still holds today.
Now, Mjolnir serves a slightly different purpose as the Wolverines compete each week for control over the hammer.
The object is simple. Score the most individual points in a match and the hammer is yours. Obtain a pin and the wrestler is rewarded with an additional 15 points towards the hammer.
If a wrestler happens to win the hammer that week, they are forever immortalized as their name is drawn on the hammer as a symbol of their triumphant victory.
While the incentive of winning a small, toy hammer seems to pale in comparison to the feeling of winning a match outright, this intrasquad rivalry has worked wonders on the wrestlers’ aggressiveness.
“We want to make sure that we’re constantly out there aggressive and scoring,” said fifth-year senior Adam Coon. “A person who only gets a takedown at the end would only get two points toward the hammer, but a guy who wins seven to nothing, obviously that guy was more involved, but in the match score it’s still only three points. So we want to make sure we are rewarding the guy who’s attacking.”
The tradition began last season as associate coach Sean Bormet introduced the concept to inspire more individual points and team competition.
The team has been incredibly receptive to the new trophy, even silently keeping track of the standings during the meet to see where they rank. Some of the athletes will even strive for additional takedowns in a match in order to compete for the hammer.
For instance, in the Dec. 10 bout against Oregon State, redshirt sophomore Myles Amine strategically positioned himself to score a last second takedown by ostensibly letting his opponent escape to compete for the hammer, a feat he then split with Coon as they both secured 20 individual points.
“It gets these guys competing with each other,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “We just don’t throw it out there all the time and internally, it gets these guys competing with each other over who can score the most points. Not all the fluff stuff, just in our practice room from weekend to weekend.”
Across all collegiate sports, many teams have certain motivational props used to galvanize support for their program. Whether it be the Miami football team’s turnover chain, Ohio State’s pin chain or the variety of different turnover trash cans, all of these items seek to add an additional layer of competition to give a team the extra edge.
What separates Michigan’s Mjolnir, however, is its lack of glitz and glamour. All of the other items are brandished on the arena of competition, while the hammer humbly awaits its victor at the Bahna Wrestling Center.
The week’s winner does not pound his chest or find the nearest camera to advertise his new accolade. Rather, he returns to his teammates with bragging rights and a will to defend his title in the coming week.