LINCOLN — Michigan used a conservative, clinging kind of wrestling strategy Friday to nip seventh-ranked Nebraska in a dual meet tiebreaker 17-16.
The Wolverines’ style, rather than pushing hard for points, gripped, pulled and frustrated Husker wrestlers to eke out narrow match victories.
“It made it hard to score points,” said NU coach Mark Manning, whose team had won three straight road duals against ranked teams.
And those points were telling at the end, when the 10 individual matches ended with a 16-16 tie that sent officials to the scoring table to determine which team would get one additional tiebreaker point.
After several minutes, officials announced that Michigan would be the winner based on the total points scored in matches.
After checking the first level of tiebreaker — pins (neither team had any) — the tie remained. After the second level — technical falls (neither team had any) — the tie remained. After the third level — major decisions (each team had one) — the tie remained. But at the fourth level — total points — Michigan had 56 to Nebraska’s 49.
Each team won five individual matches, but the tiebreaker system ruled in Michigan’s favor.
The loss dropped NU to 5-2 in conference duals and nixed any outside chance the Huskers had at a share of the Big Ten title. Michigan remains in contention at 6-1.
The fact that it was close makes no difference. “They just count up the ‘W’s,’” Manning said.
The drama in front of 2,667 at Devaney Center intensified in the late matches after NU took its first lead on a sudden-victory win by TJ Dudley at 184 pounds over 16th-ranked Dominic Abounader. Dudley, ranked ninth in the nation, scored a takedown with 5 seconds remaining in the first overtime period.
“I was thinking at the start of the overtime ... I looked at the scoreboard and saw the score and looked over at my mom and I saw her eyes closed,” Dudley said. “I was thinking there was no way I was going to lose this match.”
Dudley’s 8-6 decision in the third-from-last match gave Nebraska a 13-12 lead and put the match squarely on the shoulders of senior Caleb Kolb at 197 pounds. A win by Kolb, an unranked senior, was needed for Nebraska to have a chance.
Kolb fell behind 2-0 to senior Chris Heald but pulled out a 5-4 win with a takedown with 27 seconds remaining.
“For the first time in my career,” Kolb said, “I heard the crowd.”
It was on his mind all week that it was his last home match as a Husker. His win gave the Huskers a four-point lead going into the last match at heavyweight.
That match pitted Nebraska redshirt freshman Collin Jensen against second-ranked Adam Coon. Coon needed a major decision (more than eight points advantage) to forge a tie, or a pin to earn the win.
Jensen was within seven points at the end of two periods but yielded in the third to give Coon a 12-3 win, the four points Michigan needed for the tie.
The Wolverines sent six nationally ranked wrestlers to the mat in the first six matches, winning the first three for a 9-0 lead. One of those was a 2-0 win by 20th-ranked Connor Youtsey over ninth-ranked Tim Lambert at 125 pounds.
Shawn Nagel, one of three Huskers ending their home careers on senior day, nearly got the points back in the second match but lost 7-6 to 19th-ranked Rossi Bruno at 133.
Fifth-ranked Jake Sueflohn took care of business for NU’s first win of the night at 149. The featured match against Michigan’s seventh-ranked Eric Grajales ended with a 9-3 Sueflohn victory.
The next Husker points came from top-ranked 157-pounder James Green. He struggled to put away Jake Salazar, who has lost all four of his dual matches this year and has not made Michigan’s dual lineup since being pinned Nov. 24. Green barely held on in a third overtime for a 7-6 win, surviving a video review to determine whether Salazar had scored in the final second.
Individual results: 125 pounds: Connor Youtsey, Michigan, dec. Tim Lambert, 2-0. 133: Rossi Bruno, Michigan, dec. Shawn Nagel, 7-6. 141: Steve Dutton, Michigan, dec. Colton McCrystal, 10-3. 149: Jake Sueflohn, NU, dec. Eric Grajales, 9-3. 157: James Green, NU, dec. Jake Salazar, 7-6 (OT). 165: Dan Yates, Michigan, dec. Austin Wilson, 4-0. 174: Robert Kokesh, NU, major dec. Collin Zeerup, 11-2. 184: TJ Dudley, NU, dec. Dominic Abounader, 8-6 (OT). 197: Caleb Kolb, NU, dec. Chris Heald, 5-4. Hwt: Adam Coon, Michigan, major dec. Collin Jensen, 12-3.