From the opening minute, the No. 8 Michigan wrestling team looked untouchable.
Bouncing back in dramatic fashion from a demoralizing loss against No. 1 Penn State, the Wolverines (3-1 Big Ten, 6-2 overall) trounced Wisconsin (1-2, 4-2) Friday for an inspiring 29-10 win.
To begin the meet and ultimately spell doom for the 23rd-ranked Badgers, fifth-year senior Adam Coon took on Wisconsin’s Ben Stone, a match that didn’t make it out of the first period. Coon muscled his way to a first-period fall a mere 40 seconds into the contest. Cliff Keen Arena erupted into a chorus of approval as the Wolverines began making their statement.
“It’s always good to start things off like that,” said fifth-year senior Domenic Abounader. “It gets the team going, it gets the momentum going and some confidence going for our team.”
Michigan used this momentum to its advantage as the Wolverines found success in the first five matches of the night. After these victories, including two falls, Michigan looked unbeatable.
However, the Badgers did have some fight in them as they managed to escape with two upsets, taking down redshirt junior Alec Pantaleo and fifth-year senior Kevin Beazley. The two ranked wrestlers fell to their unranked counterparts, 3-0 and 3-2, respectively.
After losing a close contest against the Nittany Lions last week, Michigan needed a big win to reaffirm its status as a collegiate powerhouse and instill much-needed confidence.
That is exactly what it got as the Wolverines came away from the contest winning seven out of ten weight classes. This confidence was perhaps most apparent in redshirt junior Malik Amine.
Last week, Amine let his emotions get the best of him as he was called for three unnecessary roughness penalties, essentially delivering the match to his opponent.
This week was a different story. Amine ended the match early, pinning Cole Martin in the first period. Triumphantly emerging form his pin, Amine also demonstrated how his emotional wrestling style could be a positive, strutting across the mat and hyping up the crowd.
“After Penn State, I had to go back to the drawing board,” Amine said. “It’s better to wrestle emotionally for me then to come out flat. If I go out there flat, I lose or I barely win. Controlled emotion is probably the best for me.”
Going forward, it will take consistent control and aggression from all the Wolverines to push them over the top.
In the two upsets of the meet, a glaring lack of aggression seemed to be at the root of the losses. In his loss, Beazley began the first period sluggishly, struggling to gain momentum. It wasn’t until the third period that he showed signs of life before ultimately running out of time.
“I think Kevin needs to wrestle the first period like he did that third period,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “He wrestles like that, he probably wins the match. He’s really gotta start stringing moves together. It’s a mindset, we talk a lot about being aggressive, high pace and he finally got that going in the third period.”
Growing pains aside, this match was everything the Wolverines needed it to be. Complete with two falls and two major decisions, Michigan secured the energy needed to compete in the Big Ten moving forward.
“We didn’t really get a chance to dominate against Penn State,” Coon said. “So when we had the opportunity here in those matches where we could dominate, we definitely came out and put the hurt on them. We need to get a couple matches where we dominate.”