2024 Big Ten Wrestling Championships Coverage

Michigan Wrestling Finally Healthy Heading Into Big Ten, NCAA Championships

Michigan Wrestling Finally Healthy Heading Into Big Ten, NCAA Championships

Michigan's lineup, featuring six All-Americans and nine wrestlers ranked among the top 15, is finally healthy and just at the right time.

Feb 28, 2024 by Mark Spezia
Michigan Wrestling Finally Healthy Heading Into Big Ten, NCAA Championships

Michigan wrestling coach Sean Bormet has been eagerly awaiting a chance to see what his lineup, arguably one of college wrestling's most formidable, can accomplish when fully healthy.

He expects to finally be afforded that opportunity at next week's Big Ten Championships. 

"Our team health is the best it's been all season, so we'll need to keep it that way," Bormet said. "We battled our more than our share of injury and illness over the last several months and only had our full-strength lineup for one dual all season. That's wrestling, though, and I know other teams have been hit hard as well. Fortunately, we're pretty healthy right now."

Anticipation is indeed building as Bormet and his staff continue preparing the Wolverines for the season's stretch run. 

When at full strength, Michigan can start six All-Americans, seven NCAA qualifiers and nine wrestlers ranked among the top 15 in their weight classes, compared to five heading into last year's Big Ten Championships. Only Penn State also boasts at least nine starters ranked in the top 15.  

The Wolverines' lineup is also chock full of guys who know how to get it done come conference tournament time.

In all, seven starters have combined for 21 career top-five finishes at conference championships, including past champions Austin Gomez (Big Ten, 2022) and Shane Griffith (PAC-12, 2020). 

Clearly, bettering last year's fifth-place, Big Ten showing is a strong possibility when matches begin March 9 at Maryland. 

"I feel great about our team, I'm confident about our preparation throughout the season, and believe in all our guys," Bormet said. "We've got an experienced, veteran team that knows how to peak for the postseason and win at the biggest stage."

Even with starters constantly in and out of the lineup, Michigan still finished 8-4 in duals, 5-3 in the Big Ten. That brings Bormet's record to 56-17 in six seasons, including 35-13 in the conference.

Easily the biggest dual victory of the Bormet era came Feb. 2 when the Wolverines stunned Iowa, 24-11, on Senior Night in Ann Arbor. It was their first win over the Hawkeyes since 2018 and their most lopsided win in the series since thumping Iowa, 25-6, on January 20th, 1968. 

On the flip side, however, Michigan dropped duals to Penn State and Nebraska by a combined 54-16 score. All nine ranked Wolverines started against the Cornhuskers, but not all were completely healthy and Michigan lost at five weights by a combined 11 points.

The Wolverines also dropped a 20-19 heartbreaker to Ohio State. 

"I would like to be a little more consistent throughout the season, but it doesn't always work out that way," Bormet said. "I try not to react too much to all the ups and downs, but focus more on the information we're gleaning about our guys and how we're competing as we continue to move the improvement needle toward March."

Especially encouraging is the fact that, in addition to those seeking to add another top-five conference finish to their resumes, the Wolverines have two others who are near-locks for their first top-five showing.

True freshman Sergio Lemley has made an immediate impact at 141 pounds and shocked the collegiate wrestling world earlier this month with a dominant, 14-2, upset of Iowa's Real Woods, a two-time All-American who was then ranked #1 and is still #2. 

Lemley is ranked #14 and fourth among Big Ten wrestlers. He has dropped decisions to #1 Beau Barlett (Penn State), #5 Brock Hardy (Nebraska) and #8 Tagen Jamison (Oklahoma State) by only seven points combined. 

The nephew of Indiana head coach Angel Escobedo is 15-5, including eight bonus-point wins. He is 6-3 against Big Ten foes.

Lemley's rookie success is no surprise to Bormet or anyone else who watches the way he works. 

"Sergio's passion, work ethic and competitiveness has impressed me since we started recruiting him a few years ago, so I have not been surprised by his early success," Bormet said. "I see the work he puts in on a daily basis and how important it is to him. Sergio does all the right things, and it reflects in the tenacious way he competes. That's why I believe in him." 

Bormet is not entirely surprised by Jaden Bullock's breakout season either.

Injuries and having to wait behind others left the junior with a 16-14 career coming into the season, but Bullock has vastly improved to 15-8 this season with nine bonus-point victories. He is 5-3 against Big Ten competition.

Bullock is ranked #15 at 184 pounds and fifth among Big Ten wrestlers. His biggest win of the season thus far is a 9-6 decision over #11 Dylan Fishback (North Carolina State).

"Jaden is healthy this season and I think that's the foundation to all the success he's had this year," Bormet said. "He's been able to train consistently and reconnect with his love for training and competing. He's having fun again, and he has bought into everything we're doing from a program and coaching standpoint."

Bullock will be competing at the Big Ten Championships for the second time after going 1-3 as a true freshman in 2021.

"After injuries, frustrations and not really getting much out of the last couple seasons, Jaden has completely reinvested in it," Bormet said. "He has challenged himself with some of the great training partners in the room and he's seeing and feeling the benefit of that. I think we're just starting to scratch the surface in terms of what we saw in Jaden as a recruit and our coaching staff is so proud of him."

Anchoring the lineup while filling filling the mammoth void left by the graduation of Hodge Trophy winner and NCAA Champion Mason Parris, has been heavyweight Lucas Davison.

The Northwestern transfer and two-time All-American is the only Wolverines who started all 12 duals and is 14-3, including 6-2 against Big Ten foes. Davison boasts 11 bonus-point wins and is ranked #6 and second among Big Ten wrestlers behind Penn State's Greg Kerkvliet.

Davison dropped an 8-3 decision to the three-time All-American on Jan. 19 and lost to him, 5-3, at last year's Big Ten Championships. Davison's other losses this season have been to #3 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) and #8 Nick Feldman (Ohio State) by a combined three points.

Davison's biggest career wins have come against #4 Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State), a three-time All-American, and #5 Zach Elam (Missouri). 

All signs point to the senior finally stepping higher on the Big Ten podium after four straight, fifth-place finishes. 

"Lucas has brought a lot of maturity and experience to our team and does a great job of leading by example on and off the mat," Bormet said. "He has just been super steady and consistent in everything he does, from training, nutrition and in how he recovers and takes care of his body. Lucas sticks to a strong regiment and is a great example and an anchor in all those ways for the team."

Tough Title Roads

Griffith and Gomez face major challenges in their quest for another conference title.

Griffith, a 2021 NCAA Champion and three-time All-American while at Stanford, is in a bracket with three-time national champion and top-ranked Carter Starocci (Penn State). Starocci did not start in January's dual against Michigan and his status remains unclear after he sustained an apparent leg injury in Penn State's final regular season dual. 

Ranked #3 overall, Griffith is 12-2 (6-0 in the Big Ten) with six bonus-point wins. Defensively, he has dominated, allowing more than two points in just two of 13 matches this season and more than four points in none. In fact, Griffith has gone 30 consecutive matches without allowing more than four points dating back to last season. 

This season, he has held #4 Cade DeVos (South Dakota State), #5 Patrick Kennedy (Iowa) and #13 Rocco Welsh (Ohio State) to a single point.  

In addition to his Pac-12 title as a redshirt freshman, Griffith also finished second three times.

Gomez, a 2022 All-American and three-time NCAA qualifier, previously wrestled at Iowa State and Wisconsin before joining the Wolverines in December. He is 7-1, 5-1 in the Big Ten, and 19th in the latest pound-for-pound rankings.

Gomez is ranked #5 at 149 and second among Big Ten wrestlers behind #1 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska). Gomez had beaten Lovett twice prior to this season, but started slowly when the two met earlier month and dropped an 11-4 decision. 

In addition to his Big Ten title, Gomez took third at the 2019 Big 12 Championships.

Ragusin On A Roll

Junior Dylan Ragusin, who gave up his redshirt in late December to return to the lineup at 133 pounds, is enjoying easily the finest season of his career.

With a 22-1 record, the four-time NCAA qualifier tops Michigan in wins and bonus-point victories (14). He is ranked #4 overall and first in the Big Ten.

Ragusin has gone 8-1 against Big Ten foes, his only defeat being a 3-2 decision to #19 Jacob Van Dee (Nebraska). His best wins this season have come against #7 Dylan Shawver (Rutgers) and #8 Aaron Nagao (Minnesota), who was fifth at last year's NCAA Championships. 

On paper, at least, Ragusin is the Michigan wrestler with the best chance to capture a Big Ten title after finishing fifth and third the past two seasons.

How Will Others Fare In Big Ten Tournament? 

Michigan's other transfer starter, former Northwestern standout Michael DeAugustino, is 9-3, 5-2 in the Big Ten. He is ranked #12 at 125 and seventh among Big Ten wrestlers. 

DeAugustino has lost to #5 Braeden Davis (Penn State) and #11 Caleb Smith (Nebraska) by a combined seven points this season, but beat Smith last season. His best win this season has been a 2-1 tiebreaker decision against #2 Drake Ayala (Iowa). 

The four-time NCAA qualifier has also knocked off #4 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) and #9 Patrick McKee (Minnesota) twice during his career and #1 Matt Ramos (Purdue) once.

In the Big Ten Championships, DeAugustino has placed third once and fourth twice. 

Veterans Cam Amine and Will Lewan intend to show they have shaken off being dinged up for part of the season with notable showings at the Big Ten Championships. They are only a combined 6-7 against Big Ten competition so far this season.

Amine, a three-time All-American, is 10-5 overall (3-3 in the conference). He is ranked #11 at 165 and sixth among Big Ten wrestlers. 

Other than an 11-1 loss to Penn State's Mitchell Mesenbrink, Amine's four others losses have been by a combined seven points to stellar competition  -- #2 David Carr (Iowa State), #8 Izzak Olejnik (Oklahoma State), #9 Caleb Fish (Michigan State) and #10 Antrell Taylor (Nebraska).

However, Amine has beaten Fish four other times and owns three wins over #4 Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin). As far as other Big Ten competition, Amine has not faced #6 Michael Caliendo (Iowa) and lost his only meeting against #12 Bryce Hepner (Ohio State) in 2022.

Amine has finished fourth, second and third in the last three Big Ten Championships.

Lewan, a two-time All-American and four-time NCAA qualifier, is 9-6 this season and ranked 15th at 157 pounds, sixth among Big Ten wrestlers. He is 3-4 against Big Ten competition. 

All but one of his losses has been by three points or less, also against elite competition -- #1 Levi Haines (Penn State) #6 Daniel Cardenas (Stanford), #13 Peyton Robb (Nebraska), #14 Brayton Lee (Indiana) and #17 Ed Scott (North Carolina State). 

Robb beat Lewan, 8-2, at the Cliff Keen Invitational before Lewan narrowed the gap to 2-1 earlier this month. Lewan also beat Robb twice and Lee and Scott once prior to this season along with #3 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State). 

Lewan's biggest win so far this season has been a 2-1 tiebreaker win against #5 Jared Franek (Iowa).  

Lewan took third and second at the last two Big Ten Championships. He was eighth in 2021 and fifth in 2020. 

"We have a group of 10 guys who are hungry, confident and excited to compete and wrestle to their best ability, with a bit of a chip on their shoulder and just enjoy this best part of the wrestling season," said Bormet, whose team was sixth at last season's NCAA Championships. "The overall quality and depth of teams this year is impressive, and it's going to make for a really exciting championship season."