Joe McFarland was fired up.
As the Michigan wrestling coach gestured to the crowd to stand up and make some noise, McFarland himself was bouncing around the bench.
The Michigan faithful inside Cliff Keen Arena answered his call and energized 165-pound redshirt sophomore Logan Massa as he scored a pivotal two-point takedown in sudden-death overtime.
Massa’s victory all but solidified a hard fought dual-meet win for the fourth-ranked Wolverines (6-1 Big Ten, 9-2 overall) against No. 15 Nebraska (5-2 Big Ten, 7-4 overall).
Coming off of a huge road win against Iowa last week, there was some concern Michigan would overlook the Cornhuskers. Though this apprehension was eased by the end of the night, few of the Wolverines’ seven wins appeared to come easy.
“That’s the crazy thing about the Big Ten in wrestling is that every week you’re going to have a tough opponent,” said 184-pound fifth-year senior Domenic Abounader. “You get a day or two to dwell on it and look at the tape to see what you did wrong and what you did right and how you can get better. But in four, five days you’re going to have another tough kid.”
Abounader’s victory got the ball rolling for the Wolverines after a lottery had determined the dual-meet would start at 184 pounds instead of 125, as meets typically do. Fifth-year senior heavyweight Adam Coon recorded a technical fall to bring his record to 20-0 on the season, while No. 5 133-pound redshirt sophomore Stevan Micic also did enough to earn a major-decision win.
With that being said, Michigan did slip up a few times throughout the night. Despite beating the fifth-ranked wrestler in the 197-pound weight class last week, fifth-year senior Kevin Beazley suffered an upset loss to his Nebraska opponent.
One of the team’s mantras this season has been staying aggressive and pouncing on every point rather than simply defending a lead. At times, the Wolverines seemed to get away from that.
“I addressed that in the locker room with the guys,” McFarland said. “You can’t start looking at the clock. You start doing that and you start defending and bad things are going to happen. We saw that at a couple of weight classes tonight. Kevin’s got to wrestle a complete match. If he wrestles a complete match, he beats that kid every time.”
Overall, though, the team collected itself right when things seemed to be getting too close for comfort. Michigan was up just 15-10 prior to back-to-back star performances from Massa and redshirt junior Alec Pantaleo. Pantaleo came alive in the third period of his match at 157 pounds, scoring a final second takedown to punctuate his win.
“He put an exclamation point on that match,” McFarland said. “And the fans appreciated it, they loved it. They went crazy.”
If the crowd was raucous after Pantaleo’s win, Massa’s nearly brought the roof off of the building. Having battled through injuries all season, he won for the first time in five matches.
“Can’t tell you the last time I lost four matches in a season let alone a row,” Massa said. “So, mentally I wasn’t all there. I’ve just been in the room working my butt off like six hours a day with the coaches.”
Added McFarland: “Logan needed that win. He dug down deep and gutted out a tough, hard-fought win and he needed that. That’s going to help him down the road.”