After going without juniors Brian Murphy and Adam Coon at last weekend’s Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, the Michigan wrestling team got a boost from having the two veterans back in the lineup for the Big Ten season opener Thursday against Michigan State.
Murphy, who was previously held out due to a minor injury concern, wrestled in the 157-pound weight class, taking on Michigan State’s Joe Johnson. At the start of the night, Michigan coach Joe McFarland was unsure if Murphy would even compete.
“We knew we were going to weigh him in, and we had two guys weigh in at that weight class,” McFarland said. “We were going to leave it up to him, and he still had some soreness in his hip earlier this week, but he said he felt ready to go. He’s a pretty tough kid, so he made the call, and of course he had the green light from our medical staff. So we sent him out there, and he did a great job and got a major win for us.”
Ranked No. 5 nationally in his weight class, Murphy came out strong against Johnson, scoring four points in the first period and a near-fall in the third, while conceding just two escapes on his way to a 14-2 match win.
“I wanted to see where I’m at before I can start really training again,” Murphy said. “We have a long break. It’s like a test to see where I’m at and things I can work on, because live competitions are a lot different.”
Prior to the match against the Spartans, Coon, the No. 3 heavyweight in the country, had been given time off to work on his Greco-Roman wrestling for the US Open — an Olympic qualifying event — but he did not miss a beat stepping back into folkstyle to take on Michigan State’s Dimitrus Renfroe.
“I would say it’s a better transition at heavyweight than it is in any other weight,” Coon said. “There is a lot more upper body wrestling at heavyweight. Just traditionally, a lot more hand fighting, but it is pretty much two different sports. There are a lot of different techniques and a lot of things that will work in Greco that won’t work in folkstyle and vice versa.”
Coon dominated his match, allowing only one point on an escape by Renfroe, while scoring a near-fall and four takedowns, including one at the end of the match to conclude the bout as a technical fall.
The 17-1 win by Coon capped a 39-6 victory for the Wolverines in their last match before their winter break.
“It gives your team that confidence when you get two guys like Brian and Adam back in your lineup,” McFarland said. “It makes us that much stronger. We were excited to get Brian going again, and he looked like he pushed pretty hard. Both those guys pushed the pace pretty hard in those matches.”