For once, they actually lost.
Michigan ended Minnesotaís wrestling teamís dreams of an unbeaten dual meet season with a 19-15 upset win Friday night in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Sometimes, when a team is rolling, that first loss can be devastating ó the knockout punch from which it never can recover.
But judging by Minnesotaís storming counter-attack at Michigan State on Sunday, it was nothing but the rope-a-dope.
The Gophers responded to Fridayís lapse with a 41-3 route of the Spartans, racking up three major decisions, three pins and a technical fall along the way to the win.
ìThe big thing is, you canít start questioning yourself,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. ìOur guys, instead of saying, ëOh, weíre not very good or this or that,í instead they were like, ëWeíre better than this.í “
The top-ranked Gophers (20-1, 7-1 Big Ten) won nine of the 10 matches at No. 18 Michigan State, with their only loss coming at 125 pounds when third-ranked Nick Simmons beat Travis Lang 9-2.
But Minnesota more than made up for it.
Three major decision wins by Cole Konrad at heavyweight, Mack Reiter at 133 and Roger Kish at 184 were only the start.
Top-ranked Dustin Schlatter beat No. 15 Darren McKnight 15-0 by technical fall, and pins by C.P. Schlatter at 157, Manny Rivera at 141 and Matt Nagel at 165 made it a blowout victory.
The pins at 141 and 165 were especially significant ó and indicative of the Gophersí turnaround ó after it was bonus-point losses at those weights that cost Minnesota Friday.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Safratowich wrestled in place of Rivera on Friday after Minnesotaís coaches decided to give Rivera the night off to allow for a longer week of training.
But the move backfired and resulted in a bonus point for Michigan as Josh Churella beat Safratowich 13-5.
ìIt wasnít that Manny couldnít wrestle, it was just giving him a day off from making weight and giving him a couple extra days to train,” Russell said. ìIt was more just trying to get Manny ready for Big Tens.”
The real problem came at 165, where Michigan garnered three bonus points after Nagel was disqualified for stalling five times against top-ranked Ryan Churella.
Russell did not agree with the refereeís call.
ìIt was kind of bizarre,” Russell said. ìThatís pretty rare to have somebody disqualified for stalling, especially if theyíre out there still working and trying. I donít know. The match just got out of hand and he couldnít figure out what the official needed to see from him to keep from getting stalled out in the last 13 seconds.”
It was the second match in a row Nagel lost due to stalling calls, after losing to Oklahoma Stateís Johny Hendricks 3-1 on three stall points.
ìI think both the times that it happened I think the ref was trying to do more than he should have,” Safratowich said. ìThatís just how he wrestles and everybody knows it and I donít know why theyíre trying to change it for him.”
Russell said Fridayís loss had nothing to do with his effort, just his defensive style.
ìI canít fault Mattís effort at all,” Russell said. ìNagel wrestles hard and he does a great job. Evidently, these last few duals, for whatever reason, the officials havenít appreciated his style and thought he was stalling. Itís more of a style, the way he wrestles.”
Third-ranked Michigan won matches at 125, 174 and 197, as 125-pounder Michael Watts, who came into the match with a 10-16 record, upset Lang 9-6.
Casey White beat Mitch Kuhlman 7-2 at 197 and Nick Roy beat Gabe Dretsch 3-1 at 174. But as possibly case in point for the team as a whole, 13th-ranked Dretsch then upset the Spartansí fifth-ranked R.J. Boudro 4-1 Sunday.
ìI think (the loss) actually refocused us to show us what we really need to work on and what we need to do so it doesnít happen again,” Dretsch said. ìObviously it wonít happen again in duals because weíre done this year with duals, but we now know what we need to do for nationals.”
The loss still cost Minnesota the Big Ten regular season title after Michigan beat Indiana 31-9 Sunday to finish the conference season 8-0.
But now with only the Big Ten and NCAA Championships to go, the Gophers truly believe that losing in the regular season could now help them win in the postseason.
ìI think they showed today that they can really use that loss against Michigan to their advantage to kind of spur them on to do some great things at Big Tens and at nationals,” Russell said. ìAnd hopefully thatís what will happen from that loss. Instead of something that ruins our season, it could be the thing that gets us over the top.”