Much has been made in recent weeks about the No. 8 Michigan wrestling team’s “Murderer’s Row,” as sixth-year senior Max Huntley called it.
The term refers to the Wolverines’ 184-pound, 197-pound and heavyweight wrestlers — junior Domenic Abounader, Huntley and junior Adam Coon, respectively. All three are undefeated in dual play and were as strong as ever in Michigan’s 22-12 victory over No. 19 Central Michigan on Friday and its 33-6 win against No. 21 Indiana on Sunday.
While their contributions have been crucial to Michigan’s success, they are not the only ones propelling the Wolverines to victory.
Some of the lighter-weight wrestlers have shined for Michigan as of late. Senior Rossi Bruno (6-2 in dual-meet play) at 133 pounds and sophomore Alec Pantaleo (7-1) at 149 pounds have stood out, especially over the weekend.
“Our guys did a great job of scoring points,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “(The fans) come for a lot of action and guys scoring points, and we did a great job of that today.”
Bruno, who entered Friday’s match ranked No. 17 in the country, began the weekend with a 4-2 overtime win over the Chippewas’ Corey Keener. Bruno scored an escape point late in the third period to force overtime and was quickly awarded a bout-winning takedown in the extra period.
He continued his winning ways Sunday with a 15-2 major-decision victory over the Hoosiers’ Alonzo Shepherd. Bruno broke open his match in the second period with a takedown and a near fall to go ahead 8-0. The triumph proved momentum-shifting as it followed a close loss by redshirt junior Conor Youtsey, 5-4, at the hands of Indiana’s Elijah Oliver at 125-pounds.
“I thought I wrestled hard, but there’s always places to improve on,” Bruno said. “So I don’t think I had two perfect matches, but definitely two steps in the right direction.”
Pantaleo, meanwhile, showed why he entered the weekend ranked sixth at 149 pounds. He came out Friday with a 10-4 win over Central Michigan’s Colin Heffernan to put the Wolverines in front, 9-3. Pantaleo buoyed himself with a near fall and two takedowns in the second period.
“Pantaleo has been a very consistent winner for us,” McFarland said. “He scores a lot of points, he’s explosive and it’s fun to watch how fast he is.”
Sunday proved to be almost no different for Pantaleo. He used a three-point third period to top Indiana’s Luke Blanton, 7-2. Pantaleo’s victory gave Michigan a 10-3 lead at the time.
“When I step on the mat, I want to dominate everyone I wrestle,” Pantaleo said.
With a matchup at No. 1 Penn State looming on Jan. 31, the Wolverines will be looking for any matchup advantage they can find, especially those outside of their “Murderer’s Row.” But Bruno said he feels Michigan can draw off its experience from its 21-11 win at then-No. 6 Ohio State on Jan. 9 and be up for the Nittany Lions’ challenge.
“We’re just going to keep doing the things we’ve been doing,” Bruno said. “The big thing is not letting the hype of Penn State get to us. If we can model the execution we had (against Ohio State), we should be good.”