After taking a look at Nebraska’s potential lineup in 2021-22, we’re into previewing the competition. After looking at the defending NCAA champion Iowa Hawkeyes right here and the runner-up Penn State Nittany Lions here, it’s time to preview the Michigan Wolverines.
The Wolverines were the Big Ten’s third best team at this year’s NCAA tournament, finishing in fifth place. They also are in an odd situation where they had three wrestlers who have recently taken Olympic redshirts to train for Tokyo and have not made decisions on returning. Both Stevan Micic (57kg - Serbia) and Myles Amine (86kg - San Marino) wrestled at the Olympics, with Amine taking home a bronze medal. Logan Massa also took the year off training for the Olympics to compete at 74kg for Team USA.
The difference between a rebuild and a title run for Michigan will hinge on the decisions of this trio.
Led by NCAA finalist Mason Parris at heavyweight, Michigan could field a team that could give Penn State and Iowa problems if Amine, Micic and Massa return.
And with a seemingly lackluster 2021 recruiting class with only one recruit in the Top 100 (No. 7-overall Chance Lamer, 149 pounds), it’s not as if immediate reinforcements are on the way.
Michigan has a couple options here, and honestly it may all hinge on whether Micic decides to return at 133 pounds. Both freshman Dylan Ragusin and junior Jack Medley have experience at 125 and 133.
Last season, Ragusin went 8-5, finishing seventh at the Big Ten Championships before qualifying and going 1-2 at NCAAs. Ragusin is a very talented youngster, a three-time champion at Fargo Nationals and two-time Greco-Roman World Team member. Whether he starts this year or redshirts, he’ll be tough to deal with for years to come.
Medley holds a 32-20 career record. He went 19-12 as a sophomore while Micic took an Olympic redshirt before going 7-6 this past season at both 125 and 133. He went on to not place at Big Tens, falling to Nebraska’s Tucker Sjomeling in the 9th-place match at 133.
I think Ragusin gets the nod here. But if Micic comes back, Medley could go at 125 and give Ragusin the chance to redshirt and get a year in the wrestling room under his belt while saving some eligibility.
If Micic returns it would be a huge boon for the Wolverines. He has a 74-11 career record but hasn’t competed for the Wolverines since the 2019 NCAA tournament, where he lost in the 133-pound final to South Dakota State’s Seth Gross.
A three-time All-American, Micic also won an individual Big Ten Championship in 2018 as a sophomore, finishing the season with a 26-3 record. He qualified for the 2020 Olympics for Serbia. He fell in his first-round matchup 7-0 to Japan’s Yuki Takahashi.
If Micic doesn’t return, I imagine the Michigan coaching staff will have a decision on who they want to move up to 133 between Ragusin and Medley.
Michigan returns junior Drew Mattin here. The three-time NCAA qualifier went 5-8 this past season after going 41-23 in his first two seasons in Ann Arbor. Mattin then redshirted as a junior before starting in 2021.
Despite the down year, Mattin finished 8th at Big Tens before qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
Kanen Storr has already announced he’s coming back for another year as the Wolverine starter at 149. The three-time NCAA qualifier, Storr has yet to finish on the podium.
Three times Storr has finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships, and with his 67-26 career record, I expect Storr to improve in his final year on the mat.
After Storr graduates, it’ll be incoming recruit Chance Lamer’s show.
Another returning starter for the Wolverines is Will Lewan. The sophomore is a two-year starter and a two-time NCAA qualifier. After finishing fifth at the Big Ten Championships as a freshman, Lewan finished eighth at Big Tens in 2021.
With a 30-11 career record, Lewan has a lot of talent and experience. He’ll be in this lineup for a long time.
One of the bright spots for Michigan last year was the performance of true freshman Cam Amine, the cousin of All-American and Olympic Bronze Medalist Myles Amine.
The freshman went 14-4 on the year while finishing third at Big Tens and seventh at NCAAs. The All-American defeated Nebraska’s Peyton Robb 4-1 in the 3rd-place match at the conference tournament then again at NCAAs.
A big-time recruit and a legacy wrestler, Cam Amine is supremely talented and will only get better.
Another question mark for Michigan is whether Logan Massa decides to come back.
A two-time All-American and a former Olympic hopeful, Massa went 14-5 in 2021 for Michigan. He finished fourth at Big Tens and fifth at NCAAs and has been one of the best 174-pounders in the country for years.
His return to the Wolverine lineup would be a big boost to the team’s championship hopes.
Last year’s starter at 197 pounds Myles Amine has indicated that if he returns, it’ll likely be down at 184 pounds. A four-time All-American, Amine went 11-1 this past season. He defeated Nebraska’s Eric Schultz in the Big Ten final before finishing third at the NCAA tournament, the third time he’s finished third at NCAAs.
Then he went on to win a bronze medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, coming back after losing to eventual gold-medalist David Taylor of Team USA.
Shoutout to @Myles_Amine as well. The pride of all of San Marino. He refused to go home empty handed! What a clutch performance. In less than six months he went from 3rd in the country to 3rd in the world!— Jordan Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) August 5, 2021
With a 91-19 career record, Amine is probably the most important piece for Michigan going into the 2021-22 season.
With Amine moving down, that leaves a huge hole at this weight. It could be any number of guys, including J.T. Correll, Jelani Embree, Joseph Walker, Andrew Davison and Gaige Garcia.
I’d bet the race comes down between Correll and Embree. Embree is 29-19 in his career, largely at 184 pounds, while Correll went 2-0 a year ago in extra matches. Davison went 2-3 last year, while the freshman Garcia was a highly-touted recruit.
Michigan saves its best for last. At heavyweight, Michigan has not only one of the best in the country, but one of the best in the world.
A junior, Mason Parris has a 72-12 career record and was far and away the second best heavyweight in the country last year. Just so happens, the best in the NCAA was Gable Steveson, who not only won Big Ten and NCAA titles this year, he also just won an Olympic Gold Medal.
After falling to only Steveson the past two seasons, Parris is unquestionably alone in a tier below the transcendent talent that is Gable Steveson. He’ll anchor Michigan’s lineup nicely.
How Would Nebraska Fare in a Dual?
Obviously the answer changes depending on a trio of decisions, but either way Nebraska’s extremely deep and talented starting lineup will pose problems for everyone. Michigan is one of the top teams in the country, so this one could be fun if it happens.
At 125, I think Ragusin is a future conference champ, but the experience and savvy of Nebraska’s Liam Cronin should pay dividends.
If Micic is back, he easily beats Nebraska’s starter at 133 (Boo Dryden, Alex Thomsen, Tucker Sjomeling or Dom Serrano). If it’s either Ragusin or Medley, I think it becomes a coin-flip situation.
Chad Red should easily down Mattin at 141, while Storr probably has the upper hand against Brock Hardy. At 157, Ridge Lovett I think should be favored against Lewan.
Then comes Cam Amine at 165. He’s beaten Robb to eliminate him from both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. Until Robb shows he can beat Amine, the Wolverine gets the nod.
At 174, Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola beat Massa 11-3 last year for third-place at Big Tens. Labs should win fairly easily.
Then at 184, Myles Amine would be a big favorite against Taylor Venz, while Eric Schultz would probably dominate anyone Michigan puts out at 197.
Then at heavyweight, Parris should be able to take care of Christian Lance pretty easily.
If Micic, Massa and Amine return, I think the dual could finish with both teams winning five matches and could come down to bonus points. If all of those guys don’t return, Nebraska could win fairly comfortably.