At times, it looked like a training exercise.
To the delight of the crowd in Cliff Keen Arena, nine out of 10 matches ended with Michigan wrestler’s hands in the air — and all but one of those victories was decisive.
Although this upcoming Sunday’s matchup against No. 2 Ohio State loomed on the horizon, the fourth-ranked Wolverines (7-1 Big Ten, 10-2 overall) were able to avoid a letdown against in-state foe Michigan State (1-8 Big Ten, 5-10 overall) with a 39-3 win.
Despite the Spartans’ struggles this season, Michigan made sure it didn’t overlook its opponent.
“Don’t take anybody for granted,” said 133-pound redshirt sophomore Stevan Micic. “Treat every match the same. There’s still another human being standing across from you. It’s no different whether he has a green singlet on or a red singlet on.”
It was Micic who got the ball rolling on Friday night after freshman Drew Mattin shockingly gave up the opener at 125 pounds. Micic was able to subdue any doubt emanating from the Wolverine faithful in attendance, as he pinned his opponent within 33 seconds.
“Yeah, I mean Stevan got after it,” said 184-pound fifth-year senior Domenic Abounader. “He got a pin in 30 seconds, or something like that. Any time someone does that in a dual-meet, it’s going to energize the team. It’s going to jolt the team.”
From that moment on, Michigan clearly claimed the momentum. In a toss-up match at 141 pounds, redshirt sophomore Sal Profaci eked out a 1-0 victory.
That seemed to be the end of the close matches, as bonus points became the name of the game in the matches to follow. Michigan coach Joe McFarland welcomed the decisive victories.
“We preach it every week,” McFarland said. “We want bonus points. Just because it forces your guys to focus on a style of wrestling that’s winning wrestling. That’s exciting wrestling. It’s great for the fans. When you’re focused on your offense and building on leads and getting to major decisions and tech falls and pins, that’s exciting wrestling. That’s what puts fans in the stands.”
Both redshirt sophomore Logan Massa and redshirt junior Garrett Sutton, who stepped in for sixth-ranked redshirt sophomore Myles Amine, picked up major decisions at 165 and 174 pounds, respectively. Fifth-year senior Kevin Beazley also scored a major decision victory at 197 pounds.
Sandwiched in between two first period falls orchestrated by Abounader and fifth-year heavyweight Adam Coon, Beazley’s win was accentuated by multiple takedowns.
“I thought they did a good job,” McFarland said. “Both (Dom and Adam) did a really, really good job, and they’ve been doing a good job of leading this team all year. Both those guys got pins tonight, so it was great to see. Dom made a little adjustment on top. We’ve been working on a little adjustment on his power-half position on top that leads to that pin, and it was good to see him get that tonight.”
But a 36-point dual-meet win is a rare occurrence in collegiate wrestling — especially against a Big Ten opponent — and will undoubtedly give the Wolverines confidence going forward.
But Sunday’s matchup in the Crisler Center will be the antithesis of a training exercise though.