Heavyweight Mason Parris stepped onto the mat Saturday with eyes on him.
After upsetting top-ranked heavyweight Amar Dhesi in his first match since Parris shed his redshirt, the true freshman settled into the starting position with the expectations and intrigue of every person in the Crisler Center. But no pressure, weight deficit or age difference could stop Parris from pinning Illinois fifth-year senior Deuce Rachal in a decisive win.
“There’s definitely a huge difference between high school and college wrestling,” Parris said. “I was hungry to go out and compete and was excited to do it."
Capped by Parris’ standout pin with one minute left in the third period, the No. 6 Michigan wrestling (6-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) defeated the No. 19 Illinois (2-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten), 28-10, in a meet of gritty, low-scoring losses and one-sided, high-scoring matches for both teams.
Starting with a tough loss in the 125-pound division, sophomore Drew Mattin, ranked 12th in his weight class, fell to 16th-ranked Travis Piotrowski, failing to deliver a single takedown for the Wolverines. In the 141-pound weight class, redshirt sophomore Kanen Storr also fell short, falling 3-2 in a ranked matchup. Even with redshirt junior Stevan Micic’s major decision win in the 133-pound weight class, the two ranked losses left Michigan losing 4-6 with momentum favoring Illinois.
“We weren’t getting enough attacks off in the first period and weren’t giving ourselves enough chances to score,” said Michigan coach Sean Bormet. “The pace just wasn’t in our favor.”
After a series of close losses, fifth-year senior Malik Amine changed the pace, winning 3-0 in a defensive struggle at 149 pounds despite no takedown. Amine’s win made way for 157-pound Alec Panteleo, also a fifth-year veteran, to decisively beat Illinois' Eric Barone, ranked two places behind him. Panteleo attributed his success in Saturday’s match to his discipline and drive to accomplish his goals in the program.
Adding to Panteleo’s success, redshirt junior Logan Massa, ranked seventh in his weight class, trounced 16th-ranked Joey Gunther by a margin of 15 points, creating a technical fall and turning the tide toward the Wolverines. Massa and Panteleo’s wins, with a clean 12-3 performance in the 174-pound division by redshirt junior Myles Amine, ranked third, upped the team score to 19-10 and widened Michigan’s lead from only one point to 13, an almost-clear sign of a win, even with early losses and redshirt freshman J.T. Correll’s defeat at 184 pounds to Illinois’ second-ranked Emery Parker. Correll filled in for redshirt freshman Jelani Embree, a standout early in the season who has been sidelined for weeks with an undisclosed injury.
To continue the Wolverines' success and solidify their undefeated record, redshirt junior Jackson Striggow handily won his 197-pound match, leading up to Parris’ debut in Ann Arbor. Coming out strong with an onslaught of takedowns in the first two periods, the freshman ended the first minute of the third up 14-3 and eventually pinned his opponent, earning an automatic fall, increasing the team score by six points and proving his presence as a college heavyweight even after starting the year as a redshirt.