I saw Brian mention he found this last weekends dual against Ohio State on the BTN entertaining, which, as a former wrestler and fan, I found encouraging.
College Wrestling is a dying sport in some areas (west coast), but, in Michigan, we are fortunate to have some support. U of M, in specific, could be a much bigger program on the rise. They recently opened the Bahna Wrestling Center for training, which is head and shoulders above most wrestling facilities. They are very appealing to recruits with having top notch facilities, great coaches, compete in by far the toughest conference in wrestling and can walk away with one of the best degrees out there. (There is no pro career, so this is big)
The biggest step left is fanbase driven. Iowa is the Gold standard in this department. Few realize Carver Hawkeye Area was actually built for wrestling. Its an increadible atmosphere for nearly every dual as they usually outsell any basketball event. I've seen Michigan come close when in good years, a premium oppenent and scheduling working out that they get Crisler Arena. However, a typical dual at cliff keen arena can lack some luster. I've had the honor to officiate there and can say, my high school meets were more intimidating. It is fun and on some occations can be extremely exciting as the sport, especially at the college level. Even a blowout team score can be met with some tense nailbiting situations on an individual match. Few sports can say that.
I hope Michigan can eventually take this step and grow the fan base. They are building a very good team that is having success this year with a very young team (Somewhere Rich Rodriguez is saying "impossible") They underacheived two years ago, which saw a brief Ohio State surge in the Big Ten and reached a low last year, sacrificing the season, as key weights redshirted and efforts were turned towards the future. (Back with us Rich? your welcome) Now they've planted themselves as players in the conference and nationally.
The next 4 meets will see the #12 Wolverines face
#4 @ Wisconsin, #1 Penn State (probably lossing the top ranking after falling to Iowa), #6 Minnesota and then @ #11 Iowa (probably going up after beating the #1 team)
Should be fun, So I thought I'd share some about this team to watch in hopes to attract some more MGoers.
This is a team getting better as the season goes on and are starting to find what they've got. example: lost to #13 Lehigh 25-6 in Nov. this season, then won the rematch earlier this month 21-18. Lehigh is since improved their to #7.
They are led by #1 ranked Kellen Russel at 141 from Blair Acadamy in NJ (always a top high school program that UofM has built a good pipeline to) He's nothing flashy and won't look like the top guy in the country, but, he wins. He has already beat most of his top contenders.
Anthony Biondo is a senior capt. at 197. Ranked 11th, another not flashy guy that they could us to step up his game some more.
Hwt Ben Apland is currently ranked 8th and having a good heavyweight is huge. I've always looked at having a good Hwt as having a good Kicker (no, I don't think he's the answer at kicker, though, could he have been worse?) But, the Hwt class is usually has the biggest difference between the best and the worse. Having a solid option there opens the door to possible big team points. It can be tough to watch this group, but, Apland can make it even harder. If you watched the OSU dual, you probably can pick up on it. He does a lot of things the difficult way. Big asset though.
The Middle weights Michigan plays around with to match up. The Zeerip Brothers can be found here as solid contributers. Brandon has made his debute this year and has made a run up the rankings since at #19. Dan Yates and Aaron Haynes are in the mix with the middle weights as well as Hunter Collins who is at 184. The book on all these guys is that you could have a lot. All these guys are capable of wrestling with anyone and this is the group that will win or lose a meet. You can sometimes go a long way predicting matches on paper. You can usually find those key swing matches. These names will almost always be on that list.
Another spot like those middle weights is at 125. Sean Boyle (Blair kid) very solid lightweight capable of a lot, but, will almost always give you a tough match. Michigan has lacked at this weight in the past years, so, Boyle is a breath of fresh air.
133 Zac Stevens I think is starting to wrestle at a high level for him. He's at the least solid, but, I think he could be a big part of this team.
Now for a fun one after boring you with the unflashy leaders of the team. Freshman Eric Grajales. One of the top recruits that came to Michigan. He came in as an option at 133. Quickly grew out of that and started to look like a more natural 141er. Only problem is Michigan's 141 is occupied by the #1 kid in the nation. So he's bumped to 149. This is tough to do in College wrestling, but, this kid is managing just fine. Extremely fun to watch, very good and all up a weight as a freshmen. Impressive and a huge asset now and for the future.
All in all this Michigan team is at its least good and could be real good. The next few duals are going to be tough. They've loss to Penn State already and don't match up well with them, but, there are spots in there that they could have limited the damage and can turn the tide enough to make it happen. The Wisconsin matchup is tight at about everyweight except a couple that Wisconsin looks very strong at. If they can pick up enough swing matches, they can make that advantage moot. Minnesota is another match with a lot of swing matches, but, both sides have some strength spots. couple top matchups there with #1 Russel of Mich. taking on #2 and #8 Apland taking on #9.
I've been up and down the Iowa dual and the Strengths cancel out enough to make it a game of swing matches. Could be a very fun one.
The Penn State dual is a Maize out. The Minnesota and Iowa matches will be on the BTN. Hopfully you watch, we win and the program grows. Its a great sport.