“Disappointing” was the word Michigan coach Joe McFarland repeatedly used to describe his team’s 22-18 loss to Minnesota.
Coming off an appearance at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, the Michigan wrestling team headed into Sunday’s dual against the Golden Gophers after the Wolverines experienced a solid start to the season.
Michigan was focused on setting the tone from the start, and did just that throughout the initial stages of the dual. Freshman Sal Profaci defeated Gannon Volk with an 11-5 decision in the 141-pound category, giving the Wolverines a 3-0 lead.
In the 149-pound category, sophomore Zac Hall extended his team’s lead, beating the Golden Gophers’ James Berg with a major decision.
But Michigan’s initial success hit a snag in the 157-pound category after senior Brian Murphy lost a decision to Jake Short, cutting the Wolverines’ lead by three points.
Despite this temporary setback, redshirt freshman Logan Massa jolted new hopes into Michigan’s game after he defeated Minnesota’s Brandon Kingsley 17-2 via a technical fall. Massa’s win came one week after the rising star won an individual title at last week’s invitational.
But the Wolverines could not convert this momentum into a win. Freshman Myles Amine lost a decision to Nicholas Wanzek, and junior Ernest Battaglia lost a major decision to the Gophers’ Robert Stevenson.
The Wolverines were in desperate need of a victory to turn their woes around. However, neither redshirt freshman Jackson Striggow nor freshman Dan Perry were able to cut their opponent’s lead, losing a major decision and by technical fall, respectively.
Michigan freshman Austin Assad’s following match against Steven Polakowski was therefore a must-win for the Wolverines. While Assad was able to keep the score close, it was not enough, losing a 6-4 decision to Polakowski. This put the Golden Gophers up 22-12, and Michigan was out of reach.
Though the score did not finish in the Wolverine’s favor, freshman Stevan Micic would end the dual on a high note. In the 133-pound category, Micic pinned Minnesota’s Mitch McKee to win via a technical fall, but his victory was not enough to turn the tables for his team.
“Some of those matches, we just got out-handed, out-fought and out-hustled,” McFarland said. “We didn’t execute the way we should have.”
Despite seven out of 10 Michigan atheletes being freshmen, McFarland said that the team’s youth should not be an excuse for underperforming.
McFarland also said that his team has to make some improvements this week.
The Wolverines will now have a couple of weeks to reflect and do that, with their next match not until their dual against Iowa after the winter break. Sunday reminded Michigan of the importance of starting well and taking advantages of opportunities when they present themselves.
“We had opportunities to score and we weren’t able to capitalize on that,” McFarland added. “And that cost us.”