March 6, 2011

? Kellen*Russell Highlights
? Notes & Quotes |Photo Gallery*
? Final Results | Big Ten Championships Central

Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Event: Big Ten Championships (Day 2 of 2)
U-M Standing: 5th Place of 11 Teams (86.5 points)
Next U-M Event: Thu-Sat., March 17-19 -- at NCAA Championships (Philadelphia, Pa.), 10 a.m.

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Senior/junior captain Kellen Russell (High Bridge, N.J./Blair Academy) captured the third Big Ten 141-pound title of his career, leading the No. 11-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team to fifth place (86.5 points) at the Big Ten Conference Championships on Saturday (March 6) at Welsh-Ryan Arena. In the closest team race in years, Penn State captured the team title with 139 points, while Iowa took second with 138.

Russell earned his largest winning margin in his third Big Ten finals appearance, using an early takedown and a late five-point move to cruise past Minnesota's third-seeded Mike Thorn, 8-4. The top-seeded Russell took advantage of Thorn's offense to gain control, scrambling out of an immediate single-leg shot to score on the edge just 12 seconds into the bout. The wrestlers traded a few flurries in the middle period, before the Wolverine captain blew the match open early in the third, rolling to reverse Thorn to his back for a three-point near fall. Russell could not get the pin and gave up a late reversal out of an ensuing scramble but settled for the decision to improve his perfect season record to 33-0.

Sophomore/freshman Eric Grajales (Brandon, Fla./Brandon HS) dropped a narrow 3-0 decision to Penn State's top-seeded Frank Molinaro in the 149-pound final. The Nittany Lion wrestler scored on a single leg midway through the first period and earned an escape midway through the second -- after Grajales ran off his riding time -- to control the match throughout.

Sophomore Sean Boyle (High Bridge, N.J./Blair Academy) split his day-two matches to claim fourth place at 125 pounds, earning his NCAA Championships automatic qualification bid with his morning victory -- a 6-3 decision over Purdue's Camden Eppert in the consolation semifinals. The Wolverine wrestler, seeded fifth, controlled throughout, scoring on single legs in the first and second periods and riding most of the third period to accumulate 2:23 in time advantage.

Boyle lost to Minnesota's third-seeded Zach Sanders, 12-4, in the third-place match behind five Gopher takedowns -- three of which came off of Boyle's shots. Sanders surged ahead in the final period, finishing on three takedowns to earn the major decision after riding time. Boyle's fourth-place finish is his best two career appearances at the Big Ten event; he did not place last season as a true freshman.

Junior Zac Stevens (Monroe, Mich./Monroe HS) also posted his best ever Big Ten finish, claiming fifth place at 133 pounds after accepting a forfeit victory over Ohio State's Ian Paddock in the placing bout. Stevens, seeded seventh, dropped an 11-5 decision against Illinois' fourth-seeded B.J. Futrell in the consolation semifinal. Despite a late surge on a third-period takedown, Stevens could not overcome Futrell's five-point first-period move -- a double leg that took the Wolverine wrestler straight to his back. Stevens is now a three-time Big Ten placewinner, earning previous finishes of seventh and eighth.

Sophomore/freshman Dan Yates (Hesperia, Mich./Hesperia HS) punched his ticket to the NCAA Championships in dramatic fashion, using a pin from the neutral position to defeat Illinois' Conrad Polz in the 165-pound fifth-place match and earn the weight's final automatic-qualifying bid. After failing to convert on a deep single leg in the first, Yates, seeded sixth, made good on his next attempt, wrapping up Polz on a high crotch and came up with it to drag Polz down his back. Yates twice rocked the Illini wrestler back on his shoulders, earning the pin call on the latter to end the bout at 3:22.

The Wolverine rookie dropped a close 3-1 decision in the consolation semifinals as Iowa's fourth-seeded Aaron Janssen converted on the winning single leg in the last 20 seconds of regulation. Yates had dictated the early pace but failed to finish on a couple of early opportunities.

Junior/sophomore Ben Apland (Woodridge, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) dropped both of his day-two matches to claim sixth place at heavyweight with a 3-3 record. Squaring off against Penn State's top-seeded Cameron Wade in the fifth-place match, Apland could not overcome an early and sizable deficit as Wade used a first-period single leg and three-point tilt and a counter takedown in the third to win 9-0.

Apland lost a heartbreaker against Michigan State's seventh-seeded Joe Rizqallah in the morning consolation semifinals, tying the match on a last-second takedown only to fall 8-5 in the tiebreaker. Rizqallah scored on two counter takedowns -- one apiece in the first and third periods -- to carry a narrow lead and riding time late in the match. Apland pressed the action, converting out of a flurry on the edge with just one tick left on the regulation clock. After a scoreless sudden-victory frame, the Spartan wrestler secured a quick escape in the first tiebreaker and caught Apland in a roll in the second to add two back points to his winning score.

Senior/junior Justin Zeerip (Fremont, Mich./Hesperia HS) dropped a 6-5 decision to Michigan State's eighth-seeded Curran Jacobs on a tiebreaker ride out in the 174-pound seventh-place match. Jacobs secured a quick escape in the first 30-second go, and despite getting to his feet in the second, Zeerip could not do the same.

The Wolverines will take a two-week break to prepare for the NCAA Championships, scheduled for March 17-19 in Philadelphia, Pa. Michigan will send at least seven wrestlers to the national event and have an opportunity to add another one or two when wild cards are announced on Wednesday (March 9).

Final Team Standings

1. Penn State 139 2. Iowa 138 3. Minnesota 110.5 4. Wisconsin 103.5 5. MICHIGAN 86.5 6. Illinois 64 7. Northwestern 62 8. Ohio State 57 9. Purdue 51 10. Indiana 50 10. Michigan State 49.5 Michigan Results (Day 2)
Numbers listed are tournament seedings

125 pounds -- #5 Sean Boyle
Consolations - dec. #7 Camden Eppert (Purdue), 6-3
Third Place - major dec. by #3 Zach Sanders (Minnesota), 12-4
Finished in fourth place with a 2-2 record

133 pounds -- #7 Zac Stevens
Consolations - dec. by #4 B.J. Futrell (Illinois), 11-5
Fifth Place - won by forfeit over #8 Ian Paddock (Ohio State)
Finished in fifth place with a 3-2 record

141 pounds -- #1 Kellen Russell
Final - dec. #3 Mike Thorn (Minnesota), 8-4
Finished as the 141-pound champion with a 3-0 record

149 pounds -- #6 Eric Grajales
Final - dec. by #1 Frank Molinaro (Penn State), 3-0
Finished in second place with a 3-1 record

165 pounds -- #6 Dan Yates
Consolation - dec. by #4 Aaron Janssen (Iowa), 3-1
Fifth Place - pinned #5 Conrad Polz (Illinois), 3:22
Finished in fifth place with a 3-2 record

174 pounds -- #7 Justin Zeerip
Seventh Place - dec. #8 Curran Jacobs (Michigan State), 6-5 TB
Finished in eighth place with a 2-3 record

Heavyweight -- #5 Ben Apland
Consolations - dec. by #7 Joe Rizqallah (Michigan State), 8-5 TB
Fifth Place - major dec. by #1 Cameron Wade (Penn State), 9-0
Finished in sixth place with a 3-3 record

? Day 1 Results


? The Big Ten Network will replay its broadcast of the championship round at 4 a.m. on Monday (March 7), at 8 p.m. on Tuesday (March 8) and at 5 a.m. on Wednesday (March 9).

? Senior/junior Kellen Russell is the 47th wrestler to capture three Big Ten individual titles in conference history -- 10 have won four individual crowns -- and the first to do so since former Wolverine Steve Luke achieved the feat in 2009. He joins Luke, Ryan Churella, Snip Nalen, Mike Rodriguez, Max Pearson, Fritz Kellerman, Bob Fehrs, Jarrett Hubbard and John Fisher as the only Wolverine wrestlers to accomplish the feat. No Wolverine has ever captured four Big Ten titles.

? With a perfect 3-0 record en route to his 141-pound title, Russell boasts an impressive 11-0 career record at the Big Ten Championships.

? With his perfect season still alive, Russell extended his winning streak to 33 straight matches, dating back to the seventh-place match at the 2009 NCAA Championships. It ranks as the fifth-longest winning streak in U-M program history.

? Minnesota's Mike Thorn was the 2010 Big Ten champion at 141 pounds during Russell's redshirt season.

? Five Wolverine wrestlers matched or surpassed their seeds.


U-M Senior/Junior Kellen Russell
On his finals match against Minnesota's Mike Thorn ... "He got in deep right away, but I was able to get into a scramble position with him and come out on top pretty easily. When I picked bottom in the third period, I knew he was going to throw a leg in and I was ready for it. I hit a roll right to his back. Late in the match, I got a little choked out but was able to hold him off, keep hand fighting and circling and wrestle the match I wanted to."

On winning three Big Ten titles... "It was good. I'm happy I was able to come out here and wrestle as well as I did. I also got to wrestle two of the toughest guys in the country, so that's great experience as I continue to prepare for NCAAs. I'm glad to have won three. There have been a lot of great wrestlers who haven't been able to do that. But I'm really just concentrating on winning my first national title rather than resting on my Big Ten performances. That's my goal."

U-M Sophomore/Freshman Eric Grajales
On his finals match against Penn State's Frank Molinaro ... "It was a tough match. I wrestled pretty well for about 99 percent of the match, but I just gave up one takedown in the first period; I relaxed for a split second and gave up two points. I didn't put any points on the board, but I was right there. So, it didn't go the way I wanted, but it really showed me that with a few small changes, I could have won that match."

On his weekend performance ... "I knew what I was capable of going into the tournament, but I knew that I'd have to wrestle my best. I just went out there and did what I've been practicing all season. I had a rematch with [Andrew] Nadhir, who was the second seed, and that was a close one. I knew that if I stuck to my game plan and stuck to my style, I could beat any one of those guys. It helps me a lot. I wrestled three top-10-ranked guys this weekend and beat two of them. If I can keep working hard and prepare right over the next two weeks, I'll be right there for the NCAA Tournament."

U-M Sophomore/Freshman Dan Yates
On qualifying for NCAAs in his last match ... "My coaches have always told me that you just need to get into the big show. Once you're in there, anything can happen. I knew I had to go out there and get a win. In my earlier matches, I was thinking way too much. So, in that last match, I went out and just tried to let everything flow. I had better defense and better offense."

On his first Big Ten Championships ... "It was tough, a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Coming in, I knew there were a bunch of tough kids at my weight, but I didn't expect every match to be such a battle. They want to go to nationals, so they were giving it everything they have."

On the team performance ... "I think we did well this weekend as far as guys wrestling above their seeds and just wrestling hard the whole time. We weren't giving up too much; even in the matches we lost, they were close matches. So, I think we're pretty happy with the team effort."

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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