Thought I'd get this up a little early, as it should be a very busy weekend and I'm not sure when I'll get the time to do it later.
It's officially wrestling season now, and the first duel meet of the season is this Sunday at 2:00 P.M., at Cliff Keen Arena. Michigan enters this season unranked for the first time in...maybe my lifetime. This is mainly because they lost 2 of the better wrestlers to ever wear a maize and blue singlet, and because they are redshirting quite a bit of talent, including All-American Kellen Russel and All-Universe freshamn Eric Grajales. On to the weight by weight breakdown!
125: Michigan debuts a true freshman starter here, one of the top recruits from last years stellar class, Sean Boyle. It's been a mixed bag with Boyle in the 2 open meets so far this year, both losses at MSU were pins by lesser competition, one coming from Jared Germaine a few matches after he beat him 7-5. Lehigh is starting John McDonald this year, who was ranked similar out of High School to Boyle, but an injury his freshman year set him back, and he has yet to really live up to his potential. I think this is a close match, probably a swing match in the meet, but Lehigh will likely take a decision with the more experience McDonald. Lehigh leads 3-0
133: Lehigh has one of their big guns here, Sr. Matt Fisk, ranked 12th nationally, and a 3 time NCAA qualifier. Michigan will counter with Zac Stevens, a scrappy fellow who looks to be much improved from last year, especially on his feet. Stevens is a fighter, and he rarely looks out of a match, so I don't think Fisk, who has a penchant for getting bonus points, will be able to get anything more than a Major out of him, but I don't think Stevens is good enough yet to compete with the older and more talented Fisk. Lehigh leads 7-0
141: Damn...gonna miss Kellen Russel here, as Michigan will put out Soph. Mark Weber against Sr. Seth Ciasulli, another multiple time NCAA qualifier, and the #15 141 pounder in the country. Weber wrestled in spurts last year and never really looked impressive, but he's down a weight now and should be significantly better, just not good enough to beat a more experience Ciasulli, who should win a Major or maybe more. I'll say major just because I'm so damned optomistic. Lehigh leads 11-0
149: A battle of fairly uknowns here, as Mark Beaudry will take the mat for Michigan against, likely, Brian Tanen of Lehigh. Neither wrestler really stands out as better than the other at first glance, but I think Beaudry's experience from starting last year in an absolutely ridiculously stacked 149 lb Big 10 will give him the edge here, probably for a decision. Definetly a match Michigan needs to win if they want to win. Lehigh leads 11-3
157: Another fairly anonymous showdown here, as Michigan's Dave Johnson will wrestle Lehigh's Sean Bilodeau. Against, not much background on either wrestler here, could be another swing match, but I don't see Johnson winning against a returning starter. Biledoeau had 8 of his 14 wins last year come by more than a decision, so I'll give him a Major, but having never seen Johnson, this could easily swing in Michigan's favor. Lehigh leads 15-3
165: Ugh, right when we get into the meat of Michigan's lineup, Lehigh throws out another stud, Mike Galante, #10 nationally, to counter last years most surprising wrestler, Aaron Hynes. Galante is a returning NCAA qualifier, as is Hynes, but Galante has done more outside of that, and was higher rated coming out of Blair Academy. Still, I really, really like Hynes here. He has everything you want from a college wrestler, he's a terror in the legs, he's tough to ride, and he has a textbook High-C. I'm calling for it, Hynes with the upset, 6-5, riding time point wins it. Lehigh leads 15-6
174: This should be an absolute battle. Justin Zeerip is coming off a bit of a dissapointing season for Michigan, even though he qualified for NCAA's, but it came while wrestling way down in weight, which hurt his performance in a lot of matches. Alex Caruso, ranked #18, will take the mat for Lehigh, coming off a year that saw him also qualify for NCAA's. I feel Zeerip should be much improved this year, especially up at a more natural weight for him. I'll give this one to Michigan, just because I think Zeerip is the more talented wrestler and has a better background than Caruso, but I seriously doubt this match will be more than a 2-3 point match. Lehigh leads 15-9
184: This is the first weight there is some question as to who Michigan will start, Erich Smith won the wrestle-offs, but I think Hunter Collins is the starter due to his better performances in both Open tournaments this year. Sadly, it likely won't matter, as Lehigh probably has their second best wrestler at this weight, David Craig, ranked #12 nationally. Whoever goes out there needs to try and keep this match to a decision, but ultimately it should end up as more. I think at least a Major, but more likely a Tech. Fall for Lehigh. If so, it would all but assure a Lehigh victory. Lehigh leads 20-9
197: Michigan sends out their best wrestler not redshirting this year, Anthony Biondo, to face off against Joe Kennedy. Biondo is a returning NCAA qualifier, and is the lone Wolverine to enter this season ranked, coming in at #13. Kennedy actually spent most of last year, his freshman year, ranked, but an injury in his conference championships caused him to miss the postseason. This one should be a Wolverine victory, but Kennedy is certainly good enough to keep it at a decision. Lehigh leads 20-12
HWY: Another weight that doesn't have a definitive starter yet on the Michigan wrestling website, but it's probably returning starter Eddie Phillips over RSFr. Ben Apland. Whoever it is has quite the task, as they go up against Lehigh's best wrestler, Zach Rey. Rey comes in ranked #5th in the country after making it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA's as a RsFr. last year. Phillips can frustrate some good HWY's on his feet, as he's good at staying out of vulnerable positions, and his high school background at Lakeshore, where all they did was throw, will probably keep him from getting put to his back, still, he likely loses a decision here. Lehigh wins 23-12
So yeah...it doesn't look great for Michigan's chances, especially considering I gave them the benefit of the doubt in many matches and was pretty consverative with predicting bonus points. Lehigh is a very good team though, and the matchups just aren't very good for Michigan.