Everyone knew it was going to be a close matchup between the No. 10 Michigan (3-4 Big Ten, 7-5 overall) wrestling team and No. 17 Central Michigan (3-2 Mid-American Conference, 6-2 overall). Falling in line with those predictions, the Chippewas narrowly edged out the Wolverines, 19-18.
Each team took turns holding the lead, and eventually, the meet had to be decided by the heavyweight bout. Michigan elected to put redshirt junior Ayoola Olapo in for the usual starter, freshman Dan Perry. Olapo is usually a part of the 197-weight class, but due to the Wolverines lack of success in the heavyweight class, they opted to try something new.
“We thought he had the best chance of getting a win for us,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “He’s a little bit small for a heavyweight, so he’s a little susceptible for that, but it was a great match. It just didn’t work out for us.”
Central Michigan’s Newton Smerchek was able to use his weight advantage against Olapo, whose attempts to use his quickness faltered. Olapo dropped the final match of the evening, 1-0, to hand the Chippewas their first win over the Wolverines in three years.
The entire dual meet wasn’t a letdown, though. Many of Michigan’s wrestlers earned wins over ranked opponents that could later factor into their NCAA Championship hopes.
Ranked 10th in the latest InterMat poll, senior Brian Murphy was able to notch an overtime victory over No. 7 Collin Heffernan in the 157-pound weight class. After a scoreless first period, Heffernan was the first on the board with a two-point reversal.
But Murphy managed to battle back and tie the match, sending it into overtime. It took him only 20 seconds to secure a takedown on the edge of the mat and earn a 4-2 decision.
“I like to be more on the offense in the overtime,” Murphy said. “I don’t like to go into the second or third overtime because I feel like guys can sneak a win out, so I like to really push for a takedown in the first overtime.”
Second-ranked redshirt freshman Logan Massa made sure he was going to keep the momentum going in the 165-pound weight class. Massa stuck to his usual style of wrestling—taking down his opponents and then releasing them just to take them down again.
With five takedowns in the first period and four back points in the second, Massa cruised to a 21-6 technical fall victory with 1:32 left in the third period.
The Wolverines won their fair share of impressive matches, especially from redshirt freshman Jackson Striggow in the 197-pound weight class and Stevan Micic in the 133-pound weight class. But Michigan wasn’t able to capitalize when they had the chance to pull off the win.
The Wolverines could have made up the lost point anywhere. It was the difference between a decision and a major decision victory or a pin and a technical fall. But they simply weren’t able to finish on the right side of a close matchup.
“I’m looking at the whole team and we just didn’t get the job done,” McFarland said. “We had opportunities, but we had some weight classes where we could have got extra points or maybe not given up points. In the end, it was those little things that came back and bit us.”