With the dual meet and an undefeated record on the line, freshman heavyweight Mason Parris was the perfect wrestler to have on the mat for the Wolverines. In front of a packed Value City Arena and despite a slim deficit, Michigan coach Sean Bormet, and Parris himself, anticipated a favorable finish to the meet.
“The team score more than anything leading up to my match excited me more,” Parris said. “I was happy it came down to me. I just had a lot of faith in myself and confidence.”
The No. 6 Michigan wrestling team (9-0 overall, 5-0 Big Ten) trailed No. 2 Ohio State (7-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) by only one point entering the final match of the dual meet between the then-undefeated rivals. The moment also offered Parris a chance at redemption wrestling against Chase Singletary, who he had lost to earlier this season.
“Then this week I really hammered down the stuff I knew he was gonna do to me. I knew he was gonna hit low singles on me, I figured he was gonna try to throw legs on me,” Parris said. “I’m glad that I wrestled him before because I was really prepared for the match.”
Parris’ efforts were rewarded with the deciding victory in the meet, earning the Wolverines three team points and a 19-17 win.
The energy of a nearly-full audience of Buckeye fans impacted the meet early and often. In the third match of the day, fifth-ranked redshirt sophomore Kanen Storr faced second-ranked Joey McKenna. Down 6-0 after the first period of the match, Bormet instructed Storr from the corner to start the second period in the top position, but the 141-pound Storr began the period beneath his opponent. It seemed as if the crowd noise and chaotic arena atmosphere — which the team had prepared for by blasting crowd noise during practice this week — was wearing on Michigan.
“Basically what happened was when he first looked over to our corner, the official was in the way … and then as soon as he could see us he wanted to switch to bottom and the official wouldn’t let him which is a little unusual,” Bormet said. “Usually if the guy changes his mind quickly based on the corner, usually they allow the guy to change to the position they want. But it was the crowd, but also the officials blocking his view.”
Storr would go on to lose by technical fall. It was the Wolverines’ first loss of the day, after sophomore Drew Mattin and redshirt junior Stevan Micic had won by regular decision and major decision, respectively, to build a 7-0 lead. The match following Storr’s was another win for Ohio State, this time a major decision for third-ranked Micah Jordan over fifth-year senior Malik Amine.
The Buckeyes took the lead with Jordan’s victory, and just as soon as the momentum had shifted in favor of Ohio State, Michigan stole it right back. The Wolverines won the next three matches on the shoulders of their experience, namely fifth-year senior Alec Pantaleo, redshirt junior Logan Massa and redshirt junior Myles Amine.
Heading into the heavyweight matchup, Michigan had seen its 16-9 lead evaporate as the Wolverines’ redshirt freshman JT Correll lost to the Buckeyes’ top-ranked Myles Martin in the 184-pound class and redshirt junior Jackson Striggow was defeated by Ohio State’s second-ranked Kollin Moore in the 197-pound class. The two losses put Michigan behind by one, where the score would remain until Parris rode his confidence and preparation to victory.
“We thought if that played out, that it would come down to heavyweight,” Bormet said. “And we’ve got a lot of confidence in Mason Parris.”
The scoreless tie appeared to have been broken at the end of the first period when Parris took down the Buckeyes’ Singletary, but it was ruled to have been out of bounds. Bormet threw the challenge brick, but the ensuing challenge confirmed the call on the mat.
“Well, I for sure thought that I had the takedown,” Parris said. “I had his leg hooked and was behind both of his arms, which should have been a takedown. But I knew if they didn’t call it, it wasn’t gonna be a big deal and I had to keep my composure and my head in the match. I just had to think about taking him down again.”
Regardless, it wouldn’t take long for the coach’s confidence to pay off. Parris took down his opponent two more times to secure a 6-3 victory by decision and win the meet for the Wolverines.
Friday night’s victory is the most recent in an impressive season for Michigan, one that has the possibility of becoming a lot more impressive in the near future. The Wolverines head to State College for a dual meet against top-ranked Penn State next weekend. After beating the Buckeyes this past weekend, Michigan could be on top of the college wrestling world — and the NCAA rankings — in less than a week.
“We’ll just continue to focus day-to-day and enjoying our training and enjoying each other and our team,” Bormet said. “And look forward to the challenge and the opportunity against Penn State a week from tonight.”