After forfeiting the 125-pound matchup for the third meet in a row, the Michigan wrestling team began its dual meet against Illinois in a hole before it even had a wrestler on the mat.
And the night hardly improved from there for the Wolverines, whose 34-6 defeat at the hands of the 12th-ranked Fighting Illini ( 2-2 Big Ten, 4-2 overall) matched Michigan’s worst dual meet loss since the 2009-2010 season. The loss dropped the 15th-ranked Wolverines to 1-4 in the highly competitive Big Ten — each loss coming against a team ranked 18th or better. Its stretch of conference play doesn’t bode well for Michigan, with matchups against No. 11 Rutgers and No. 17 Wisconsin still to come.
“I feel we could have wrestled better,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland. “I think we need to be a little more consistent. We never got any momentum on our side, and it snowballed against us.”
The freshman trio of Logan Massa, Stevan Micic and Myles Amine — who have been so integral to the Wolverines’ success thus far this season — all lost their matchups by three points or fewer. Before Friday’s meet, the three athletes held a combined record of 48-5.
McFarland acknowledged the challenge of going on the road against a quality Big Ten opponent with a team so reliant on young talent.
But Sal Profaci, a redshirt freshman in his own right, doesn’t buy that excuse. Profaci — who competes in the 141-pound class — was one of just two Wolverines to win his individual matchup.
“We’re not waiting until next year to let us decide we’re going to be a top-tier team,” Profaci said. “We want to do that this year.”
Coming into the meet, No.2 Massa’s matchup with No.1 Isaiah Martinez figured to be the marquee event, and potentially the key to a Michigan victory. Instead, it was just another Wolverine loss to pile on to the cakewalk Illinois had previously established.
Massa fell behind after a high-crotch takedown at the end of the first period, and despite aggressive attempts, failed to make up the difference in the third period.
But McFarland believes it could be a learning experience that could prepare Massa for a potential rematch between the two.
“It was good for (Massa) to see him, because he’s going to continue to see him down the road — whether it’s at the (Big Ten Championships) or at (the NCAA Championships),” McFarland said… “A guy like (Martinez) is a quality opponent, and it came down to one takedown at the end of the first period and that was the difference in the match.”
Fortunately for the Wolverines, they may not be forced to overcome an early deficit due to forfeit much longer. They have dealt with multiple ACL injuries at the weight class, but McFarland says reinforcement is on the way. Senior Conor Youtsey, a two-time All-American, weighed in for the match and is expected to return to competition shortly.
While McFarland was hesitant to provide an exact timetable for Youtsey’s return, he said the Wolverines have to take a cautious approach.
“We’re excited to have (Youtsey) back in our lineup, and I think he can help us a lot, but at the same time we have to be smart about how we’re doing it.”
Whenever he is able to return, Youtsey will not only provide a capable body in the 125-pound class but also some much-needed veteran experience for the rest of the season.