Down 2-0 deep into his match in Sunday’s dual, Michigan redshirt sophomore Joseph Walker faced an inflection point after riding out his opponent in the second period. Starting on bottom in the third period, Walker muscled out an escape point, scored a 2-point takedown and grinded out a 5-2 decision.
This conditioning and grit shown by Walker was a microcosm of the No. 6 Michigan wrestling team’s (3-0 overall) dominant 38-6 win against Columbia (0-2) at Cliff Keen Arena, where the Wolverines took nine of the 10 matches in the duals.
Michigan entered Sunday’s dual coming off back-to-back wins. Back at home for the first time this year, the Wolverines were eager to get off to a fast start in front of a sold-out crowd.
“This team has done an outstanding job from our first dual meet to the second to this one, making adjustments that we’ve identified as a coaching staff,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said. “Tonight, we wanted them to wrestle with a lot of energy and intensity right off the whistle and trusting our conditioning. I think they did an awesome job.”
Bormet was right. The Wolverines had a very clear gameplan, and they stuck to it and won because of it.
Michigan got out to a fast start with commanding wins by redshirt junior Kurt McHenry in the 125-pound match and No. 5 Dylan Ragusin in the 133-pounder. McHenry controlled the match and won handily, 15-7, and this intensity led into Ragusin’s dominant 20-5 technical fall. Ragusin had six takedowns, a reversal and eight near fall points. Then, the 141-pound bout between the Wolverines’ redshirt junior No. 12 Cole Mattin against Columbia’s Kai Owen featured the first of Michigan’s two pins in the overall dual. Mattin’s came at only 1:08 in the first period, his second fall of the year.
“Right away I just want to get my offense going,” Mattin said. “He presented me a situation, I just took advantage, and I wanted to end it early for the crowd and get them excited.”
From this quick strike, two more ranked Michigan wrestlers took to the mat. No. 21 Chance Lamer’s had three takedowns in his 149-pound match against Richard Fedalen, including two in the third period. No. 3 redshirt senior Will Lewan had an important single leg takedown in the first period in the 157-pound match, propelling him to a 6-3 win. These results, a reflection of the Wolverines wearing Columbia down, pushed their overall lead to 22-0.
“Every guy in some way stood out,” Bormet said. “Either the way they were scoring or the way they were executing technique.”
Despite the overall success, the next bout featured Michigan’s lone defeat in the match against Columbia, with Zack Mattin falling to No. 10 Joshua Ogunsanya, who won off a fall to take the 165-pound bout and close the gap to 22-6.
But the team responded with resilience, with Walker engineering a riveting comeback to defeat Columbia’s Lennox Wolak, 5-2, putting the Wolverines up 25-6 and all but sealing Michigan’s victory.
“We preach a lot, strong mat returns and it takes a lot out of the opponent,” Walker said. “Every time I mat return him, a little bit came out, a bit more. So I just kept grinding and kept going forward and it paid off.”
The effort ignited Cliff Keen Arena and spilled over into the remaining matches. Graduate student No. 11 Matt Finesilver recorded multiple takedowns to handily win a 9-1 major decision against Jack Wehmeyer. Redshirt sophomore Brendin Yatooma’s 197-pound match against Javen Jovero rang similar tones to Walker’s bout, with Yatooma fighting back from an early 2-1 deficit to win a 4-3 decision for his first collegiate match win and yet another reflection of Michigan’s conditioning.
“This team we have and the addition of the freshman class is a really hardworking team,” Bormet said. “They trained extremely hard with a ton of consistency this fall, and it’s a team that’s in really great shape, that hard work pays off. … These guys are really starting to feel that they’re in superior condition.”
Into the final match of the day, Michigan’s heavyweight, No. 3 285-pound wrestler Mason Parris pinned Columbia’s Dan Conley for his fifth fall of the season to cap off a resounding win for the Wolverines.
Michigan will look to bottle this momentum into December’s Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas, and continue to show its grit and toughness against a deep and challenging field.