March 18, 2011

? Notes & Quotes |Photo Gallery*

Site: Philadelphia, Pa. (Wells Fargo Center)
Event: NCAA Championships (Day 2 of 3)
U-M Standing: Tie-15th Place of 73 Teams (34.5 points) After Day 2
Attendance: 17,340
Next U-M Event: Saturday, March 19 -- at NCAA Championships - Day 3 (Philadelphia, Pa.), 11 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Senior/junior captain Kellen Russell (High Bridge, N.J./Blair Academy) advanced to the 141-pound final to headline the 11th-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team's performance on Friday (March 18) on the second day of competition at the 2011 NCAA Championships in front of 17,340 fans at the Wells Fargo Center. With only Russell remaining in the competition, the Wolverines sit tied for 15th place with 34.5 points.

Russell claimed a pair of heart-stopping victories in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, claiming consecutive 3-3 tiebreaker decisions on just a combined 21 seconds of riding-time advantage to advance to the NCAA finals for the first time in his career. He garnered a standing ovation for his latter match, surviving a couple wild scrambles -- including a 20-second flurry late in the first sudden-victory frame -- to edge Iowa's fifth-seeded Montell Marion.

After earning a quick escape in the second period, Russell rode Marion for 57 seconds in the third before the Hawkeye kicked free on a restart to prevent the riding point. When Marion struck deep on a single shot midway through the extra frame, the takedown appeared imminent, but Russell kept moving, first neutralizing the position on the mat before keeping Marion from returning him and eventually wiggling away in the closing moments. The Wolverine captain's quick-escape tendency paid dividends in the tiebreakers as he escaped after two seconds and four seconds, respectively, while riding Marion for 18 cumulative seconds in advantage time. The win was the 100th of Russell's career and improved his season record to a perfect 37-0.

Russell's quarterfinal match against Oklahoma's eighth-seeded Zack Bailey was nearly identical. Neither wrestler committed to a shot until the second sudden-victory frame when Russell failed to finish on a duck and Bailey couldn't convert on a single attempt. The Wolverine wrestler went down second in the second tiebreaker and needed to escape in 13 seconds to preserve his time advantage, which he did but just barely, scrambling free on a restart to win on three seconds of riding time.

Michigan lost a pair of two-point heartbreakers in the All-America round as sophomore Sean Boyle (Lowell, Mass./Blair Academy) and sophomore/freshman Eric Grajales (Brandon, Fla./Brandon HS) finished just a match shy at 125 and 149 pounds, respectively.

Boyle posted a 2-1 record on the day and was winning late against Oklahoma's eighth-seeded Jarrod Patterson in his final bout, but the Sooner wrestler converted on a late takedown to win 4-2. After a scoreless first period, Boyle was ridden out in the second, but Patterson was hit with an illegal move call -- a full nelson -- and deducted about 20 seconds of riding time. The Wolverine sophomore ran off the time advantage and stayed on top for most of the third before Patterson got loose midway through the frame to even the score. After he added the single-leg takedown with 32 seconds remaining, Boyle scrambled to gain good position late but could not get the call on the edge.

Boyle earned a pair of wins over familiar opponents in the morning session, beating Penn State's Brad Pataky, 8-1, before edging Pittsburgh's Anthony Zanetta, 5-3. The Wolverine wrestler converted on three takedowns against Pataky, including two counter takedowns in the opening period, and accumulated 2:36 in riding-time advantage. He used another counter takedown to gain the early lead against Zanetta, coming out the back door to score early in the first and scored on a single shot of his own in the third.

Grajales lost both of his day-two matches, falling to American's eighth-seeded Ganbayar Sanjaa, 10-4, in the 149-pound quarterfinals before dropping a 9-7 decision against Virginia's Derek Valenti in the evening consolation round. Sanjaa scored on three knee picks -- two in the first period -- and countered a Grajales double-leg attack in the third period to control throughout the match.

Grajales' wrestleback match was a high-scoring affair, but the Wolverine rookie could not overcome and early and sizable deficit. Valenti scored on two single legs in the first period -- with a Grajales reversal falling in between -- and added a second-period reversal to carry a three-point lead into the third period. Grajales countered for a shot early in the third and drew a point for Valenti's stalling but could not score again as the Cavalier added a point for riding time at match's end.

Michigan also lost junior Zac Stevens (Monroe, Mich./Monroe HS), fifth-year senior Anthony Biondo (Clinton Twp., Mich./Chippewa Valley HS) and junior/sophomore Ben Apland (Woodridge, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) in the morning wrestleback round after all three suffered their second loss of the event.

Stevens split his matches at 133 pounds, earning U-M an extra point with an 8-0 major decision against Buffalo's Kevin Smith on a pair of takedowns, three back points and 4:26 in riding-time advantage. He was leading Utah Valley's Flint Ray in his second match before getting reversed to his back and pinned at the 4:40 mark.

Biondo lost to Boston University's John Hall, 4-2, on a pair of counter takedowns, including one late in the third that sealed the match. Michigan's only senior in the starting lineup, Biondo wrapped his collegiate career with a 105-47 record. Apland lost a similarly close match in the heavyweight wrestlebacks, falling to Minnesota's eighth-seeded Anthony Nelson, 2-0, on a second-period escape and 1:48 in time advantage.

The NCAA Championships will resume tomorrow (Saturday, March 19) with the fifth session starting at 11 a.m. at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. The morning session will feature third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches. The finals will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised live on ESPN.

Top 15 Teams (after Day 2)

1. Penn State 92.5 2. Cornell 75.0 3. Iowa 74.0 4. Oklahoma State 65.5 5. American 56.5 6. Lehigh 53.5 7. Arizona State 52.5 8. Boise State 52.0 9. Minnesota 49.5 10. Wisconsin 44.5 11. Stanford 44.0 12. Nebraska 38.5 13. Oklahoma 36.0 14. Northwestern 35.5 15. Maryland 34.5 MICHIGAN 34.5 Michigan Results (Day 2)
Numbers listed are tournament seedings

125 pounds -- Sean Boyle
Consolations - dec. Brad Pataky (Penn State), 8-1
Consolations - dec. Anthony Zanetta (Pittsburgh), 5-3
Consolations - dec. by #8 Jarrod Patterson (Oklahoma). 4-2
Eliminated with a 3-2 record

133 pounds -- Zac Stevens
Consolations - major dec. Kevin Smith (Buffalo), 8-0
Consolations - pinned by Flint Ray (Utah Valley), 4:40
Eliminated with a 2-2 record

141 pounds -- #1 Kellen Russell
Quarterfinals - dec. #8 Zack Bailey (Oklahoma), 3-3 TB2
Semifinals - dec. #5 Montell Marion (Iowa), 3-3 TB2
Final - vs. #3 Boris Novachokov (Cal Poly)

149 pounds -- Eric Grajales
Quarterfinals - dec. by #8 Ganbayar Sanjaa (American), 10-4
Consolations - dec. by Derek Valenti (Virginia), 9-7
Eliminated with a 2-2 record

197 pounds -- Anthony Biondo
Consolations - dec. by John Hall (Boston University), 4-2
Eliminated with a 2-2 record

Heavyweight -- Ben Apland
Consolations - dec. by #8 Anthony Nelson (Minnesota), 2-0
Eliminated with a 1-2 record

? Previous Results: Day 1


N O T E S

? Michigan will send a wrestler to the NCAA finals for the seventh time in seven years.

? The Wolverines have boasted at least one NCAA All-American in 19 of the last 20 seasons.

? Russell's All-America honor -- the second of his career -- ups the overall program total to 173 All-America citations since 1928. U-M ranks fifth among all Division I programs in the category.

? Senior/junior Kellen Russell earned a 3-2 decision against Cal Poly's Boris Novachov in the championship match of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, held Dec. 3-4, scoring on a first-period duck under midway through the opening period and battling through a couple late flurries to control throughout the match.

? With his semifinal win, Russell becomes the 34th member of Michigan's prestigious 100-Win Club. Russell boasts an impressive 100-11 career record and his .901 career winning percentage currently ranks as the fourth best in Michigan program history.

? Adding his two tiebreaker wins today, Russell has gone to overtime in six of his last 11 matches. He boasts a perfect 10-0 career mark in overtime bouts.

? Several former Michigan wrestlers made appearances at the NCAA Championships as assistant coaches for participating schools -- Jeff Catrabone (1995-98) with Buffalo, A.J. Grant (2000-03) with North Carolina, Pat Owen (2001-04) with Harvard and Tyrel Todd (2006-09) with Cal Poly.

Q U O T E S

Michigan Head Coach Joe McFarland
On senior/junior Kellen Russell ... "He just refuses to lose. He's got the will to win that is so strong; it's going to take an unbelievable effort to beat him. They're tough to sit through as a coach, but I love the fact that he gets his hand raised. He's got a lot of poise and grace under pressure. He's done a great job at handling the pressures that come with an undefeated season, especially as his undefeated streak grows and more and more people keep talking about it. He's done a good job at diverting that pressure aside and just going out and performing.

On the performance of Michigan's young qualifiers ... "The thing we really concentrated on -- and I think we did a good job with this -- is just making sure our young guys are competing the way we want them to compete. I think we saw a lot of that today. I'm really proud of all these guys. We didn't win all our matches -- this is an unbelievably tough tournament -- but these guys competed hard. That experience at this tournament is really important. Kellen didn't place his freshman year. Steve Luke didn't place his freshman year. This is a tough tournament. But look at how Kellen is wrestling now. It takes an enormous effort to be an All-American; that's why it's such a valued thing. For the guys that didn't place but came close, I don't want them to forget this feeling. I want it to motivate them to work that much harder in the offseason to get ready for next year. It starts right away, and that's what it takes."

U-M Senior/Junior Kellen Russell
On his semifinal overtime win over Iowa's Montell Marion ... "I like when we're on top and bottom. I felt comfortable, especially wrestling him and being able to ride him longer than he's been able to ride me. It's just kind of tough when you have such good competition that you've wrestled before; we knew exactly what each other was looking for. So, I knew it was going to be tough to get a takedown on him, and he and I got some good scrambles but neither is us were able to come up. I always feel comfortable in overtime that I'll be able to score."

On advancing to the 141-pound final ... "I just feel excited right now to be able to make it to the biggest stage in my sport -- in the national finals. It's something I've watched people do since I was a little kid. So, I'm just really excited to be able to get out there and wrestle on the stage in front of everybody."

On recovering quickly from his quarterfinal tiebreaker win ... "I've been wrestling tough competition all year. I think that's what's great about the Big Ten this year; we had five of the top-six guys were in the conference, so I was wrestling the best competition. I was able to work on my recovery all year. So, 10 minutes after my match this afternoon, I felt fully recovered. It's my preparation coming into this. I knew going in that I was going to have 2-3 tough matches coming in. So, it was just something I've been preparing for all year."

On the difference from his previous NCAA appearances ... "I just think my confidence. That year [2009], I had a really good Big Ten Tournament, and I had a pretty good year going into it. But when it came into the national tournament, I just felt that, looking back on it now, that I wasn't that confident as I was now. I felt really comfortable here all weekend. I didn't feel nervous; I just felt excited the whole time. So, that was a huge difference between me two years ago and me now -- just kind of growing up and feeling more confident in my wrestling."

On scrambling out of a deep shot in the sudden-victory period ... "I was just trying to scramble out as much as I could. He got in pretty deep there, and I got in an awkward position. He probably could have taken me down there, but I was able to keep fighting. I credit that to my workout partners. Eric Grajales is a great scrambler. It's tough when he and I go at it in the room. We have scrambles like that every day. So, I'm pretty used to scrambling like that, and I knew if I just kept moving, he wasn't going to be able to take me down there. So, I was rolling around as much as I could and trying to get out on top."

On what he improved on during his redshirt year ... "I think from watching everybody wrestle and me not being able to wrestle, it really got that spark going again. Not that I didn't love to wrestle my freshman/sophomore year in college, but I can definitely see a big difference from me this year and me at the end of my sophomore year where my body was kind of beat up and I was kind of having all these close matches. After having a year off, I'm really excited to get out on the mat and practice every day. I just learned a ton about myself as a wrestler, watching people wrestle, and watching myself wrestle over the last year."

On his finals opponent, Cal Poly's Boris Novachkov ... "I think just like my semis and quarters matches, it's going to be a close match. We both know each other. We've been wrestling together since we were seniors in high school. So, we both have drilled with each other and wrestled each other. We wrestled earlier this year. So, I think it's going to be another close match like this last one, and hopefully there will be a bunch of scrambles."

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

Follow Michigan wrestling: