March 5, 2011

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Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Event: Big Ten Championships (Day 1 of 2)
U-M Standing: 5th Place of 11 Teams (73 points) after Day 1
Next U-M Event: Sunday, March 6 -- at Big Ten Championships - Day 2 (Evanston, Ill.), 1 p.m. CST

EVANSTON, Ill. -- With two individuals advancing to the final round, the No. 11-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team holds the fifth spot (73 points) after the first day of competition at the Big Ten Conference Championships on Saturday (March 5) at Welsh-Ryan Arena. U-M has another five competitors alive in the wrestlebacks, while five Wolverines have already guaranteed their trips to the NCAA Championships.

Senior/junior captain Kellen Russell (High Bridge, N.J./Blair Academy) and sophomore/freshman Eric Grajales (Brandon, Fla./Brandon HS) will make appearances in the Big Ten championship round after posting perfect day-one records at 141 and 149 pounds, respectively. It marks the seventh time in eight years that Michigan boasts multiple Big Ten finalists.

Russell, the No. 1 seed at 141 pounds, earned one of the most dramatic wins of the semifinals, using a last-second takedown to claim a 6-4 overtime decision over Illinois' third-seeded Jimmy Kennedy. The Wolverine wrestler -- a two-time Big Ten champion at 141 pounds -- struck first, converting on a familiar lightning-quick duck under with about a minute remaining in the opening period. Kennedy escaped and after a quick Russell escape in the second, evened the score on a single leg.

The two wrestlers traded escapes -- with Kennedy scooting out of a third-period return attempt to hold Russell's time advantage at 58 seconds -- to keep the score knotted up at the end of regulation. The Illini wrestler spent the second half of the sudden-victory frame deep on a single-leg shot. With time ticking down, Kennedy brought Russell down to the mat, and the Wolverine captain immediately broke the lock and came around to score the winning takedown with just three seconds remaining on the clock. Russell improved to 32-0 on the season.

Russell added bonus in the morning quarterfinal round, converting on three takedowns -- one in each period -- and adding a three-point tilt in the second to cruise to an 11-0 major decision against Wisconsin's Shane McQuade.

Grajales, seeded seventh at 149 pounds, posted a 3-0 record to earn spot in the finals, including back-to-back upsets against Northwestern's second-seeded Andrew Nadhir and Indiana's third-seeded Kurt Kinser in the semifinal and quarterfinal rounds, respectively. Grajales rode out the second period to accumulate the time advantage that made the different in his 3-2 decision over Nadhir. The Wildcat wrestler scored on a third-period double to take a temporary lead but Grajales escaped to even the score and despite a late flurry, neither wrestler scored again. It was Grajales' second win over Nadhir this season.

The Wolverine rookie boasted a larger margin on Kinser, scoring takedowns in the first and second periods and building 1:23 in riding-time advantage to win 7-4 and avenge a narrow decision defeat in their previous season meeting. Grajales scored out of a first-period flurry and again off a second-period head lock to garner an early and sizable lead and while Kinser cut the gap with an awfully-quick takedown call in the third, Grajales escaped to preserve his cushion late. He opened the day with a 5-3 decision over Iowa's Mark Ballweg, scoring on two first-period single legs to carry the lead throughout the match.

Michigan's third semifinalist, sophomore Sean Boyle (Lowell, Mass./Blair Academy), gave up a quick pin against Iowa's top-seeded Matt McDonough in his 125-pound contest to drop into the wrestlebacks. The Wolverine sophomore, seeded fifth, picked up a mild upset in the morning session with a strong 9-5 decision over Penn State's fourth-seeded Brad Pataky. Boyle scored off an early single leg and rode out the first period, using a leg turk to add a three-point near fall late in the frame. He earned a second-period reversal midway through the period to persevere his time advantage and although giving up a pair of takedowns in the third, avoided Pataky's repeated attempts at a cement mixer to hold onto the victory. Boyle will need to win one match tomorrow to earn an automatic qualification to the NCAA Tournament.

Junior Zac Stevens (Monroe, Mich./Monroe HS), sophomore/freshman Dan Yates (Hesperia, Mich./Hesperia HS) and junior/sophomore Ben Apland (Woodridge, N.J./Downers Grove South HS) battled back from first-round losses at 133 and 165 pounds and heavyweight, respectively, to advance to the consolation semifinals. Stevens and Apaland have already earned an automatic trip to the NCAA event, while Yates will need to win one more match tomorrow.

After falling to Wisconsin's second-seeded Tyler Graff, 9-4, in the morning round, Stevens rallied with a pair of bonus wins in the wrestlebacks, cruising to an 18-6 major decision over Indiana's Matt Ortega before pinning Minnesota's sixth-seeded David Thorn in the first period. The Gopher wrestler gained the initial advantage in the latter match on an early throw by, but Stevens escaped quickly and used a headlock get Thorn in a near-fall count. After a minor adjustment, Stevens flattened him out to earn the pin -- his second of the season -- at 1:52.

Stevens scoring six takedowns -- three in the first period -- against Ortega in his first consolation match, converting on a variety of singles, front headlocks and doubles to dominate from start to finish. He used a leg turk to add three back points late in the second and accumulated 1:57 in riding-time advantage to earn his fifth career win against the Hoosier wrestler.

Yates opened and closed the day with a pair of decision victories, including a 3-1 overtime decision over Penn State's James Vollrath to advance to the consolation semifinals round. The Nittany Lion wrestler shot in a single leg midway through the sudden-victory frame, and after Yates stuffed the head to neutralize the position for several seconds, he cleared his ankle and came around to score with 19 seconds remaining on the clock.

The Wolverine rookie nearly had bonus in the pigtail round, settling for a 10-3 decision against Michigan State's Nick Kacznowski after giving up a late reversal. Yates scored on first-period single, parlayed a second-period ankle pick into a four-point move with back points and added a snap-down, go-behind in the third.

Apland, seeded fifth, similarly started and ended the day with good wins, earning a pair of pins to earn significant extra team points and headline his 4-1 effort. He locked up his NCAA qualifying spot with his consolation win over Northwestern's eighth-seeded Ben Kuhar in the Wolverines' final bout of the opening day, transitioning from a late double-leg takedown on the edge to a half to pin the Wildcat wrestler at 6:29. He dominated the early portion of the match, scoring three takedowns to carry a six-point lead into the third frame.

The Wolverine heavyweight was even more dominant in his first bout of the day, converting a pair of first-period takedowns before using a leg turk and a half to pin Purdue's Roger Vukobratovich at 4:12. Apland boasts five falls on the season.

Senior/junior captain Justin Zeerip (Fremont, Mich./Hesperia HS), who also earned an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships, will compete for seventh place at 174 pounds after posting a 1-2 opening-day record. Zeerip's pigtail win -- a 4-0 decision over Indiana's Nick Avery -- was all he needed to earn the qualification. The Wolverine captain hit a lightning-quick single leg midway through the first period, added a second-period escape and 1:40 in riding-time advantage to claim his second shutout win of the season over Avery.

The Wolverines had three wrestled eliminated from the first day of competition, including fifth-year senior captain Anthony Biondo (Clinton Twp., Mich./Chippewa Valley HS), who lost a pair of one-point decisions to top-10 opposition. Biondo lost his first bout 2-1 in the tiebreaker against Purdue's third-seeded Logan Brown; after getting ridden out in the first 30-second frame, he could not respond in kind in the second. He lost his wrestleback match to Indiana's fourth-seeded Matt Powless, 4-3, on riding time. He posted a reversal midway through the third to temporarily gain the lead, but Powless escaped quick enough to preserve his 1:19 time advantage, which ultimately provided the difference at match's end.

Michigan will wrap up action at the Big Ten Championships tomorrow (Sunday, March 6) at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill. The third session is slated to begin at 1 p.m. CST, while the finals will start at 3 p.m. CST and be aired live on the Big Ten Network.

Team Standings (After Day 1)

1. Penn State 110.5 2. Iowa 109 3. Minnesota 96.5 4. Wisconsin 83.5 5. MICHIGAN 70 6. Northwestern 53 7. Ohio State 52.5 8. Illinois 51 9. Purdue 44.5 10. Michigan State 38.5 11. Indiana 35.5 Michigan Results (Day 1)
Numbers listed are tournament seedings

125 pounds -- #5 Sean Boyle
First Round - Bye
Quarterfinals - dec. #4 Brad Pataky (Penn State), 9-5
Semifinals - pinned by #1 Matt McDonough (Iowa), 1:24
Consolations - vs. #7 Camden Eppert (Purdue)

133 pounds -- #7 Zac Stevens
First round - Bye
Quarterfinals - dec. by #2 Tyler Graff (Wisconsin), 9-4
Consolations - major dec. Matt Ortega (Indiana), 18-6
Consolations - pinned #6 David Thorn (Minnesota), 1:52
Consolations - vs. #4 B.J. Futrell (Illinois)

141 pounds -- #1 Kellen Russell
First Round - Bye
Quarterfinals - major dec. #8 Shane McQuade (Wisconsin), 11-0
Semifinals - dec. #4 Jimmy Kennedy (Illinois), 6-4 SV
Final - vs. #3 Mike Thorn (Minnesota)

149 pounds -- #6 Eric Grajales
First Round - dec. Mark Ballweg (Iowa), 5-3
Quarterfinals - dec. #3 Kurt Kinser (Indiana), 7-4
Semifinals - dec. #2 Andrew Nadhir (Northwestern), 3-2
Final - vs. #1 Frank Molinaro (Penn State)

157 pounds -- #6 Brandon Zeerip
First Round - Bye
Quarterfinals - dec. by #3 Jason Welch (Northwestern), 7-0
Consolations - major dec. by Jackson Morse (Illinois), 16-8
Eliminated with a 0-2 record

165 pounds -- #6 Dan Yates
First Round - dec. Nick Kacznowski (Michigan State), 10-3
Quarterfinals - dec. by #3 Cody Yohn (Minnesota, 5-0
Consolations - dec. James Vollrath (Penn State), 3-1 SV
Consolation - vs. #4 Aaron Janssen (Iowa)

174 pounds -- #7 Justin Zeerip
First Round - dec. Nick Avery (Indiana), 4-0
Quarterfinals - dec. by #2 Nick Heflin (Ohio State), 2-1
Consolations - dec. by #3 Scott Glasser (Minnesota), 9-3
Seventh Place - vs. #8 Curran Jacobs (Michigan State)

184 pounds -- Hunter Collins
First Round - major dec. by #8 Quentin Wright (Penn State), 10-2
Consolations - dec. by #7 Cody Magrum (Ohio State), 4-2
Eliminated with a 0-2 record

197 pounds -- #6 Anthony Biondo
First Round - Bye
Quarterfinals - dec. by #3 Logan Brown (Purdue), 2-1 TB
Consolations - dec. by #4 Matt Powless (Indiana), 4-3
Eliminated with a 0-2 record

Heavyweight -- #5 Ben Apland
First Round - pinned Roger Vukobratovich (Purdue), 4:12
Quarterfinals - dec. by #4 Tony Nelson (Minnesota), 5-1
Consolations - dec. Pat Walker (Illinois), 5-1
Consolations - pinned Ben Kuhar (Northwestern), 6:29
Consolations - vs. #7 Joe Rizqallah (Michigan State)

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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