Dec. 26, 2012
Sat-Sun., Dec. 29-30 -- at Midlands Championships (Evanston, Ill.)
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The No. 12-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team (6-1) will return to competition this weekend, traveling to Evanston, Ill., for the 50th annual Midlands Championships on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 29-30) at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The tournament will be broken into two sessions each day, commencing at 9:30 a.m. CST on Saturday and noon on Sunday. The finals are slated for a 7 p.m. CST start Sunday evening and will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.
This year's field at the Midlands Championships will feature 32 NCAA Division I teams, including 15 teams ranked in the most recent NWCA poll. In addition to the 12th-ranked Maize and Blue, headlining the participating teams are No. 6 Illinois, No. 9 Central Michigan, No. 10 Oregon State, No. 11 Virginia Tech, No. 13 Pittsburgh, No. 14 Oklahoma and No. 15 Northwestern. The field will also include several Division II and III teams and prominent postgraduate competitors.
Michigan's Projected Lineup
||Hometown (High School)
||Lowell, Mass. (Blair Academy)
||Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)
||Brighton, Mich. (Brighton)
||Lansing, Mich. (Eastern)
||Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)
||Bozeman, Mont. (Bozeman)
||Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
||St. Johns, Mich. (St. Johns)
||Hesperia, Mich. (Hesperia)
||Gowen, Mich. (Greenville)
||West Bloomfield, Mich. (West Bloomfield)
||Emerald Isle, N.C. (Blair Academy)
||Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)
The Midlands Championships will be U-M's second tournament appearance of the season. The Wolverines previously finished 12th at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) behind three placewinners -- senior/junior Dan Yates (second at 174 pounds), freshman Taylor Massa (fifth at 165) and junior/sophomore Max Huntley (eighth at 197).
Senior/junior captain Dan Yates remains the Wolverines' lone undefeated wrestler, boasting a perfect 10-0 record through U-M's first semester of competition. Yates has earned bonus points in seven matches, including five of six dual appearances this season, with two pins and five major decisions. He took 174-pound runner-up honors at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 30-Dec. 1), forfeiting out of the championship match with injury. Sophomore/freshman Camryn Jackson is also undefeated in dual meets, owning a perfect 7-0 record.
Freshman Taylor Massa claimed fifth place at 165 pounds at the Cliff Keen Invitational (Nov. 30-Dec. 1), posting a 5-2 record with four bonus wins. Massa owns seven bonus wins on the season -- three pins, three technical falls and a major decision -- and, excluding pins, has outscored his opposition, 133-60. His three season losses have each been by just two points.
Fifth-year senior Ben Apland made his season dual debut in the Michigan tri-meet, pinning both of his heavyweight opponents in the first period. Apland, who missed the first five duals returning from injury, went 2-2 at the Cliff Keen Invitational in his first season appearance. He already owns three pins on the season.
Michigan closed its first semester with a 6-1 dual-meet record after sweeping Duke (30-14) and Eastern Michigan (32-3) in its home tri-meet (Dec. 8). It is U-M's best start since 2007-08 when it shot out to a 12-1 record. Among its early first-semester competition, Michigan is 2-1 against nationally ranked teams. U-M is also 4-0 at Cliff Keen Arena.
Michigan has had nine different wrestlers make their varsity debuts this season, including five freshmen who have started nearly every dual competition. Among the first-time starters, freshmen Rossi Bruno (133 pounds), Taylor Massa (165) and Jordan Thomas (184), sophomore/freshmen Camryn Jackson (141) and Justin Dozier (Hwt), and junior/sophomores Jake Salazar (157) Michael Carpenter (157) and Chris Heald (184) all claimed their first varsity win in first-semester action.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Q: You have two weekends of competition under your belt this season. How did it feel from one weekend to the next?
A: I didn't know what to expect the first weekend. I think it really showed what I needed to work on. So, I really went after it the second weekend, focused on some of the warmup things I kind of overlooked in Vegas. I'm just starting to build up some good matches, and that's something I'll continue to work on.
Q: How have your practices been since those competitions?
A: I think Vegas showed more what I needed to work on, while the Duke and Eastern duals showed what I'm doing really well and what I still need to work on to keep doing those things well. The combination of those competitions, plus the last couple of weeks of practice, have allowed me to really fine tune what I'm good at and identified the areas I need to improve.
Q: You said after the tri-meet that the hardest thing to regain was a competition mentality. Do you feel like you're making progress in that area?
A: Oh yeah. I think just having those six matches under my belt has been a great reminder of what it's like. You can be intense in the practice room -- and you want and try to be -- but there's that little X factor that you only get in competition, like the environment and the crowd. It's just different when something is on the line.
Q: You lost most of the first semester coming back from injury. So has your focus been on finding your stride in the second half of the season?
A: The goal for me all along was getting to the end of the season. I didn't want to worry about coming back too soon or too late. I've always thought that when I came back, it'd be the right time, and I would just focus on getting matches under my belt and the process of getting to the end of the season. That's the ultimate goal is to do well there. I'd like to do well all season long, obviously, but I have my priorities in the right place.
Q: Midlands will be a great opportunity for you to wrestle in front of a hometown crowd. It will be your first time wrestling in it. Did you attend Midlands growing up?
A: I remember going to Midlands in high school. My dad and I would go to at least watch the finals; some years, we'd get to more of the sessions. So, it will be nice to wrestle in it, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've got family planning to come out for it. My brother is back for winter break as well, so it will be a good opportunity for him to come see me, plus my parents and other friends. I'll have a lot of fans there.
U-M Individual Rankings
LAST TIME OUT
The Maize and Blue closed out its first-semester slate in dominant fashion, cruising to a pair of lopsided dual wins over Duke, 30-14, and Washtenaw County rival Eastern Michigan, 32-3, in its home tri-meet on Dec. 8. With three starters sitting out the opening meet, the Wolverines claimed six individual matches against Duke, earning bonus points in five, including pins from Taylor Massa and Ben Apland at 165 pounds and heavyweight, respectively. Michigan took nine of 10 matches against the Eagles, headlined by Eric Grajales' technical fall at 149 pounds and another first-period fall from Apland in the final bout. U-M had five wrestlers post 2-0 records on the day -- Sean Boyle (125 pounds), Rossi Bruno (133), Camryn Jackson (141), Massa and Apland. [ Full Recap ]
Friday, Jan. 11 -- vs. Nebraska (Cliff Keen Arena), 7 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 13 -- at Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.), 1 p.m. CST