It is not often you use the term “frustrating” to describe a win, but that is how Michigan coach Joe McFarland felt after a victory over Central Michigan.
Still, the Michigan wrestling team kept rolling this weekend, as it took down an in-state rival in the 19th-ranked Chippewas (2-1 MAC, 5-3 overall) and a conference foe No. 21 Indiana (3-2 Big Ten, 6-2 overall). Though the Wolverines were victorious both Friday and Sunday, the two meets could not have been more different.
Friday, Michigan (4-0, 9-1) jumped out to an early 9-3 lead, only to find itself trailing 12-9 with only three matches left. The Wolverines suffered two tough losses, as junior Brian Murphy gave up a takedown in the last 45 seconds of his match before redshirt freshman Davonte Mahomes lost in a similar fashion.
Down three points, Michigan turned to junior Domenic Abounader to regain the momentum. Abounader, ranked 13th in his weight class, dominated his opponent and won by technical fall, helping the Wolverines regain the lead, 14-13.
“I was really just focusing on pushing the pace and finding a style of wrestling,” Abounader said. “A hard-nosed style where I was pushing the pace, being tough on top and getting to my boots. (That) ended up giving me eight points, so that was a difference maker in the match.”
Abounader gave the team the momentum it needed, and Michigan secured the match, winning by double digits for the eighth time this season. Though the Wolverines came away victorious, they were not pleased.
“I’m disappointed,” said sophomore Alec Pantaleo. “I look at my guys, and they have the most potential out of any guys I’ve ever met. Sometimes you don’t see that out on the mat. Don’t get me wrong, we came out with a win, but I was looking at it and that should have been a shutout dual. We made careless mistakes.”
“A few of those guys got beat tonight in some close matches, they let some guys off the hook and it’s tough,” added McFarland. “It’s frustrating to see. I mean, it’s always nice to get a win. I thought we did enough to win. I know I wasn’t pleased.”
After a frustrating win, Michigan needed to turn the page and refocus for Sunday’s match against Indiana.
But the Wolverines did not start the match the way they wanted, and it looked as if Sunday’s meet was going to be a continuation of Friday night’s, when redshirt junior Conor Youtsey lost his match on a takedown with less than 10 seconds remaining. Down 3-0, Michigan looked to senior Rossi Bruno to get the match going.
Bruno looked strong Sunday and beat his opponent handily, 15-2, earning four points for the Wolverines. Michigan continued to dominate the match, but the highlight came in the 174-pound match, when Mahomes defeated his opponent on a hard-fought bout, 9-8. Mahomes’ victory crushed any hopes of a Hoosier comeback, building the lead to 16-6.
“174 was a huge match for us,” McFarland said. “I knew that was gonna be a tight one. We’ve been talking to him a lot about staying on his offense. When he is offensive and scoring points, he is hard to beat. He wore that kid out at the end and took advantage of that third period. He had a strong third period, so it was fun to see.”
Michigan could not have asked to be in a better position with their top three wrestlers yet to wrestle. The so-called “Murderer’s Row” of Abounader, sixth-year senior Max Huntley and junior Adam Coon outscored its opponents, 35-6, with two of the three matches ending early by pin.
The Wolverines ended the weekend with two wins, though they weren’t completely satisfied. Still, not being satisfied with winning is a pretty good spot for the Wolverines find themselves, especially this late in the season.