It’s not often that one can find three wrestlers who perform well enough to deserve a nickname like the “murderer’s row,” but Michigan’s trio of junior Domenic Abounader, sixth-year senior Max Huntley and junior Adam Coon seem to fit the bill.
The 10th-ranked Wolverines have received great performances from their captains all season, and Friday’s dual meet against Illinois was no exception.
Heading into the final three matches of the meet, Michigan (3-0 Big Ten, 7-1 overall) found itself down, 12-14, against the 13th-ranked Fighting Illini (0-3, 9-3). But because Abounader, Huntley and Coon had yet to wrestle, the Wolverines weren’t worrying.
“If the dual’s tied or close at 184 pounds, we’re going to win,” Huntley said. “It’s kind of like a murderer’s row. We all work very hard, we’re all top-10 guys, and I don’t see any team that could win two of the last three matches.”
Coon agreed with Huntley’s naming and assessment of the trio.
“It’s great having those two,” Coon said. “Those guys are just dominant on the mat. In the practice room, how hard they work, it shows on the mat. It’s death row when they meet those two, and I just try to follow along.”
With its victories over the Fighting Illini, Michigan’s so-called “murderer’s row” remained unbeaten in dual-meet play. Their consistency has led them into the top 10 of the InterMat rankings for each of their respective weight classes, with Abounader ranked No. 10, Huntley ranked No. 6 and Coon, No. 4.
The Wolverines’ captains are not only proficient wrestlers, but are also good leaders, according to coach Joe McFarland.
“Those guys are just great role models,” McFarland said. “They’ve got a great work ethic and really focus on all the right things, on and off the mat. Put all three of those guys together and there’s really good leadership right there.”
Added Huntley: “Everything we do, we try to beat each other. We do the conditioning together in the morning, and we always wrestle.”
Besides leading through hard work, though, the three captains also exhibit a unique blend of different leadership styles. The approach for Huntley, the first three-time captain in Michigan wrestling history, has especially changed from previous years.
“I’m in more of an advisory role,” Huntley said. “(Abounader’s) taken over the vocal part. I’m more of the older, wiser captain. A lot of guys come to me for advice for cutting weight and things like that, and I try to lead by example now and leave the vocal stuff to the other captains.”
If the trio’s leadership mentality comes to fruition, opponents may be calling Michigan’s entire lineup "murderer’s row."