In the final home match of a collegiate wrestler’s career, emotions run high in the excitement of the day — from being introduced to rousing applause to playing in front of friends and classmates for the last time.
But for Michigan senior Brian Murphy, the nostalgia of wrestling in his final match at Cliff Keen Arena was not a concern. He didn’t focus on the pageantry — the photos, walking out of the locker room with his arms interlocked with his parents’ and the announcing of all his accolades to the crowd. He was focused on winning a dual meet against No. 10 Lehigh.
“I just try to keep it like any other match because that’s how I’d compete the best,” Murphy said. “I don’t worry about it.”
Later, he added: “I think it actually helped me a little bit. It helped me loosen up, just talking to my parents — not about wrestling or anything — and staying calm because it’s not going to be good if you get too nervous before a match.”
Murphy’s focus showed on the mat. He dominated and pinned Lehigh’s Kent Lane just 1:50 into the first period of the final home match of his career following an early takedown.
It was the captain’s first pin of the season, which capped a run that saw the Wolverines win four consecutive matches to take a 17-3 lead at halftime. Redshirt freshman Sal Profaci and redshirt sophomore Malik Amine were both victorious, notching victories in the final moments of the third period.
But true to his no-nonsense demeanor, Murphy’s emotions didn’t take the upswing one would expect from a college athlete after a dramatic victory.
“Just staying on that track and staying loose — I don’t try to get too high or too low,” Murphy said. “I know that it helped the team in a big way, so I was happy about that. It just keeps that momentum going. I was happy I was able to get the pin; if I just get a decision there, maybe that momentum doesn’t roll through. Those guys did a great job.”
Michigan earned its fourth team win over a ranked opponent this season, improving to 7-4 overall.
“The main part of our season is still ahead of us, though,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “But this is a great confidence builder. It’s a great moment for us.”
Despite the excitement of Profaci and Amine’s major upsets, Murphy received the two largest ovations of the afternoon from the Wolverine contingent — the first after his introduction into the starting lineup, and the second following the referee’s decision to give the captain the pin and six team points for Michigan.
His value to the Michigan wrestling program didn’t go unnoticed by those watching the senior at Cliff Keen Arena for the last time.
“We have a great crowd,” Murphy said. “Alumni come and watch us every dual meet — it's awesome. These fans are really knowledgeable about the sport, and it’s great to have that.”
And that value is certainly evident to his coach.
“He’s a class act, a great kid,” McFarland said.” It was great to see him get a pin for us going into intermission today.”
Murphy indeed is all about business when it comes to wrestling. He and the Wolverines still have three regular season matches before the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments after an early Senior Day. But even Murphy couldn’t help himself from seeing the sentimental nature of his performance Sunday afternoon.
“I tried not to focus on it, but after the match, it felt pretty good getting a pin in my last one here.”