DETROIT — Nick Suriano vs. the world.
That’s exactly what it felt like for just a moment during the first NCAA Tournament session on Friday, when time seemed to stand still. Suriano tilted his head back, spread his arms at his sides, closed his eyes and took a single deep breath.
Then he opened his mouth and screamed.
The 125-lb graduate student had just pinned Virginia Tech’s No. 24 seed Sam Latona in Michigan’s first quarterfinal match of the day, ending the bout and securing his spot in Friday night’s slate of championship semifinals. Suriano’s performance set the tone for a session filled with matches where the Wolverines left everything on the mat.
“When you can start out with fireworks like that, it definitely is contagious and it definitely is a huge boost,” Michigan coach Sean Bormet said.
Of the seven Michigan wrestlers who competed in quarterfinal bouts, five of them emerged victorious, clinching individual All-American honors and advancing to semifinal matches. As a team, the Wolverines currently sit in second place, 10.5 points behind Penn State and 9.5 points ahead of Arizona State. In similar fashion as numerous bouts on Thursday, four of Michigan’s matchups came down to the wire, with the Wolverines prevailing in three.
At 157 lbs, redshirt junior and No. 8 seed Will Lewan survived another close bout. After scoring a takedown late in the first period — his first time putting points on the board in the first period all tournament — and securing an escape to start the third period, Lewan held on to a 3-1 lead, staving off the persistent leg attacks of Oregon State’s No. 17 seed Hunter Willits.
Sixth-seeded redshirt sophomore Cam Amine followed suit, scoring a gutsy takedown in sudden victory to claim the upset win. Amine faced Iowa’s No. 3 seed Alex Marinelli for the second time in two weeks — in the Big Ten Tournament championship match, Marinelli narrowly defeated Amine by a score of 2-1 to win the title. After three aggressive periods that involved an overturned takedown and ended with the score knotted at one, Amine avenged his Big Ten Tournament loss with just 12 seconds left in sudden victory.
“I thought our guys battled like warriors today,” Bormet said. “A ton of heart, a ton of pride, (they) won a lot of tough, gritty matches. That was another great round.”
Every Michigan wrestler brought intensity and ferocity to their matches, but graduate student Stevan Micic stuck out as someone who especially embodied the warrior spirit.
After dropping his first match of the tournament to Missouri’s No. 9 seed Allan Hart, the 141-lb 24-seed has bounced back to win three straight consolation bouts, the last two in dominant fashion. In his first match of the day against Northwestern’s No. 26 seed Frankie Tal Shahar, Micic earned bonus points for the Wolverines in a 10-2 major decision victory where he was in control from start to finish.
About 30 minutes later, Micic faced Iowa’s No. 2 seed Jaydin Eierman, who was upset in sudden victory on Thursday night. In his best showing of the tournament — and maybe even the season — Micic scored three takedowns before Eierman was forced to forfeit due to injury about halfway through the second period. Micic was not able to finish the match, but the first four minutes displayed a wrestler who had improved leaps and bounds since his Thursday morning defeat. The injury also tacked on a few more bonus points to Michigan’s team score.
“I’m feeling like I’m kind of in a good groove right now,” Micic said. “You never want to lose your first match in NCAAs. … (But) I just want to keep building from here on out and keep composed (with) no pressure and kind of no expectations on me. (I) just let my wrestling show for itself, and it’s kind of starting to puzzle together.”
In addition to strong performances from Lewan, Amine and Micic, 174-lb graduate student and No. 3 seed Logan Massa extended his consistent success against Oklahoma State’s No. 6 seed Dustin Plott with an 8-3 decision victory. At 184 lbs, top-seeded graduate student Myles Amine also continued his dominant tournament campaign, besting No. 9 seed Zach Braunagel of Illinois by a score of 12-5.
Though Michigan has found success in most tight matches, three Wolverines fell in close battles in Friday’s morning session. At 133 lbs, redshirt freshman and No. 6 seed Dylan Ragusin fought until the very end against Arizona State’s No. 3 seed Michael McGee but ultimately was unable to overcome McGee’s takedown and reversal points, dropping the match 8-7.
At 197 lbs, graduate student Pat Brucki, seeded at No. 4, survived his first match in the consolation bracket with an 8-6 overtime win against Cornell’s No. 19 seed Jacob Cardenas, but fifth-seeded Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh overpowered him in his second bout. Bonaccorsi narrowly won the match by a score of 3-1, ending Brucki’s tournament campaign.
Senior heavyweight and No. 7 seed Mason Parris entered the third period with a two-point advantage, but an escape and takedown from Arizona State’s No. 2 seed Cohlton Schultz propelled the Sun Devil to a 6-5 victory.
Even in the wrestlebacks, though, the Wolverines will still have opportunities to place and score points for their team. Given Michigan’s current team standing, those points may end up being the difference between a title and second place.