It wasn’t the most important tournament of the year for the Michigan wrestling team — the Wolverines didn’t even send their starters to compete. But after the annual Southern Scuffle, they and their coaches grew excited about their future thanks to some of the young wrestlers who made the trip to Chattanooga, Tenn.
Two freshmen in particular stood out. Logan Massa, wrestling in the 165-pound division, and Austin Assad, wrestling in the 125-pound division, medaled against perhaps their toughest competition of the year. Assad finished sixth in his division, while Massa came in second.
Though both Massa and Assad are redshirting this season, this particular tournament allowed redshirts to compete as unattached wrestlers, meaning they could identify with their school but could not earn points for their team’s standing. In addition, the unattached wrestlers had to pay for their own travels and could not be coached by their college’s coaches while at the tournament. This format allows wrestlers to keep their redshirt and maintain full eligibility, while still gaining valuable, in-match experience.
“This is really a development year for these guys,” said Michigan assistant coach Josh Churella. “A lot of times, they don’t get to wrestle this kind of competition throughout the year. So they decided to pay for it and come down on their own and compete. They took advantage of this opportunity, which was a really good one for them.”
The only thing standing between Massa and a championship was two-time defending national champion Alex Dieringer from Oklahoma State. Massa put up a good fight in a match that was closer than the final count appeared, as Dieringer scored late points in the third period to extend his victory to 8-2.
Massa's loss to Dieringer marked the 10th-seeded 165 pounder’s first loss of the season, and the freshman was not content with coming in second.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Massa said. “(Dieringer) found where I have some weaknesses, and they got exposed. There’s positions that I need to work on.”
In the 125-pound bracket, Assad came in sixth place with a 4-3 record on the weekend. His only losses were to the third seed (twice) and fourth seed and were his first of the season. His record is now 14-3.
Redshirt freshman Zac Hall also made the trip for the Wolverines, competing in his first tournament of the year for Michigan. An elbow injury from the summer kept Hall out of action during the fall semester.
Hall’s weekend was a roller-coaster affair, as he started with a loss in his first match, but recovered in a big way in his next match by defeating the second-seeded 141-pounder, Jimmy Gulibon from Penn State.
“He did rebound well to beat the No. 6 kid in the country,” Churella said. “But he didn’t have that consistency throughout the tournament, and that’s what prevented him from placing here.”
Michigan finished 28th out of 31 teams in the tournament, without Massa and Assad, but it was a positive experience for many individual Wolverines, as they look ahead to the rest of the season and beyond.