Coming off a decisive victory against Maryland on Friday, the Michigan wrestling team looked to pull off an upset against No. 6 Nebraska in Lincoln on Sunday. But after being forced to forfeit the 125-pound match to start the meet, the 13th-ranked Wolverines could not overcome the early deficit, falling 29-15.
Michigan (1-3 Big Ten, 4-3 overall) forfeited the opening match after redshirt freshman Austin Assad got banged up in practice during the week and was unable to make the trip to Lincoln.
Redshirt freshman Stevan Micic faced Nebraska’s Eric Montoya in the 133-pound bout. Micic got off to a hot start with an early takedown and never let up, recording four more takedowns in the match to capture the decision, 13-7. Micic’s win put the Wolverines on the board for the first time, narrowing the score to 6-3.
“Everyone saw what Stevan’s capable of doing when he’s firing off his attacks,” said Michigan coach Joe McFarland.
In the 141-pound match — the third of the day— freshman Sal Profaci took on Nebraska’s Colton McCrystal. After a very low-scoring, defensive start in which both wrestlers spent most of the time on their feet, McCrystal took over in the third period with a decisive takedown, winning the match, 8-4, and extending the Cornhuskers’ lead to 9-3.
Minutes later, redshirt sophomore Zach Hall avenged Profaci’s loss with a 14-5 major decision win against Collin Purinton in the 149-pound match. Hall started fast with a pair of takedowns in the first period and a near fall in the second, and continued to be aggressive until the end to cut Nebraska’s lead to 9-7.
Next up was senior Brian Murphy, who battled Tyler Berger in the 157-pound match. Murphy looked to rebound after starting the season with five straight losses, but Berger proved to be too much for the Michigan veteran. Murphy was pinned with 1:35 left in the third period after a long sprawl on the mat. Berger’s pin gave the Cornhuskers six points and a 15-7 lead over the Wolverines.
In the 165-pound match, redshirt freshman Logan Massa — ranked second in the country — defeated Justin Arthur in a dominant fashion to record a 17-4 technical fall. Massa was in complete control, notching takedown after takedown until the match was over in the second period. With his victory, Massa maintained his perfect record for the season.
After Massa’s win, redshirt freshman Myles Amine notched a takedown in the sudden death period of the 174-pound match to tie the dual at 15 going into the final three matches.
But the scoring stopped there for Michigan. Redshirt junior Ernest Battaglia, redshirt freshman Jackson Striggow, and freshman Dan Perry all lost their matches.
Though the team did not come away with a win, McFarland was impressed with the level of effort his group gave and saw it as a learning opportunity for his young team.
“I thought, as a whole, our guys wrestled really hard today,” McFarland said. “We talk a lot about how your effort has to be there every time, for seven complete minutes, and I thought a lot of our guys did a good job of that.
“It was a great experience for us to come out there and compete against a team like that,” McFarland said. “For our growth down the road, I thought it was invaluable. … We’ve got to learn from this, grow from this, and use this experience to develop and get better.”