March 19, 2011
Site: Philadelphia, Pa. (Wells Fargo Center)
Event: NCAA Championships (Day 3 of 3)
U-M Team Finish: 15th of 73 Teams (38.5 points)
Next U-M Event: Season Completed
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Senior/junior captain Kellen Russell (High Bridge, N.J./Blair Academy) of the University of Michigan wrestling team fought off a second-period ankle injury to cap a perfect 38-0 season with a 3-2 win over Cal Poly's Boris Novachkov in the 141-pound final at the NCAA Championships on Saturday (March 19) at Wells Fargo Center. Russell wrapped the year with the best individual season record in Wolverine wrestling history.
Russell used a counter takedown with just 32 seconds remaining in regulation to break open the deadlocked match and defeat the third-seeded Novachkov for the second time this season. Novachkov initiated the late flurry with a single-leg shot, but Russell snapped him down and went behind to gain good position. Novachkov quickly shot up to his feet, whizzered and turned to face him, providing Russell a body-lock position and after a couple precarious seconds -- and with Russell running out of room on the edge -- he returned the Mustang wrestler hard to the mat and directly to his back for the takedown. He earned no near-fall points but did not need them, allowing Novachkov a escape after 18 seconds before easily fending off a couple last-ditch shots to secure the one-point decision.
The wrestlers had traded little more than escape points and half shots until Russell's winning takedown. Novachkov rode the Wolverine wrestler for the first half of the second, during which Russell got in an awkward position and rolled over his ankle, forcing him to use most of his allocated injury time. With his ankle taped up but not allowing him to bear weight on it, Russell kept working for the escape and got it after several more seconds, hip-heisting out for the initial lead. He rode off Novachkov's slim time advantage in the third before the Mustang escaped to even the score.
Russell becomes the 15th different U-M wrestler to capture an NCAA individual title, upping the Michigan program's total to 21 trophies and four under current head coach Joe McFarland, joining Ryan Bertin (2003, '05) and Steve Luke (2009).
Final Standings (Top 15)
1. Penn State 107.5 2. Cornell 93.5 3. Iowa 86.5 4. Oklahoma State 70.5 5. American 65.0 6. Arizona State 62.5 7. Minnesota 61.0 8. Lehigh 58.5 9. Boise State 57.5 10. Wisconsin 54.5 11. Stanford 44.0 12. Nebraska 43.5 13. Central Michigan 39.0 Northwestern 39.0 15. MICHIGAN 38.5
Michigan Results (Day 3)
Numbers listed are tournament seedings
141 pounds -- #1 Kellen Russell
Final - dec. #3 Boris Novachokov (Cal Poly), 3-2
Finished as the 141-pound champion with a 5-0 record
N O T E S
Senior/junior Kellen Russell is the 15th different wrestler in Michigan program history to claim an NCAA individual title and earned the Wolverines' 21st NCAA individual trophy, moving U-M to seventh among all NCAA Division I programs, where it is tied with Northern Iowa.
Russell is one of eight Wolverine wrestlers to post perfect seasons en route to an NCAA title. He joins Otto Kelly (14-0, 1930), Harold Nichols (12-0, 1939), Snip Nalan (16-0, 1953; 18-0, 1954), Dave Porter (17-0, 1966), Jim Kamman (19-0, 1967), Jarrett Hubbard (26-0, 1974) and, most recently, Steve Luke (32-0, 2009).
Russell was one of five undefeated NCAA champions this season. Arizona State's Anthony Robles (125 pounds), Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver (133), Nebraska's Jordan Burroughs (165), Iowa State's Jonathan Reader (174) also achieved the feat.
In their only previous meeting, Russell defeated Cal Poly's Boris Novachkov by a similar 3-2 margin in the finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 3-4) on a first-period duck under.
Adding his win in the 2009 NCAA seventh-place match, Russell boasts a 39-match winning streak. It ranks as the third-longest win streak in U-M program history, behind John Fisher (47, 1988-89) and Otto Olson (42, 2001-02).
Russell won eight of his last 12 matches either in overtime or by less than two points. Over the stretch, Russell wrestled eight matches against top-10 opponents.
Through his three collegiate seasons, Russell boasts an incredible 101-11 career record. His career winning percentage of .902 ranks as the fourth best in Wolverine program history.
Michigan has also boasted at least one finalist in six of the last seven seasons. The Wolverines have won their last two individual trips to the NCAA finals.
Russell's All-America accolade -- the second of his career -- ups Michigan's overall program total to 173 since 1928. U-M ranks fifth among all Division I programs in the category.
In his 12 years at the helm of the Wolverine wrestling program, head coach Joe McFarland has guided 18 different wrestlers to four NCAA titles, 40 All-America honors and 15 Big Ten individual crowns.
This weekend's total attendance of 104,260 sets a new NCAA Wrestling Championships record.
Q U O T E S
Michigan Head Coach Joe McFarland
On battling back from a second-period ankle injury ... "I was proud of the way he handled that. He really sucked it up and wrestled through that. He made those little adjustments -- he knew he couldn't drive off of it, so he wasn't going to be able to score off a penetration shot. He snapped, spun behind him and fought hard for that takedown."
On Kellen's perfect season ... "He just like the way he stayed so focused. He was really able to stay focused and do it one match at a time. As his winning streak got longer and longer, you always try to focus these guys on one match at a time. As coaches, we talked to him about that. The No. 1 seed at the national doesn't mean anything; you haven't won anything yet. The journey you sent for yourself is to win a national championship, so stay focused on what you need to do to achieve that. He did a great job with that. And the way he did -- with all the overtimes -- that's unbelievable."
U-M Senior/Junior Kellen Russell
On his 141-pound final ... "The whole time preparing for this match, I knew I was going to have to get into a scramble to score a takedown, but I knew he's one of the best scramblers in the country from wrestling him prior. So, going into the match I was trying to get my feet moving a little bit, and in the third period things started clicking together. My ankle was hurting me a little bit. When I got into the scramble, I was waiting for the right opportunity to be able to pick him up there."
On finishing the match in regulation time ... "Going into the match, I was looking to finish it in seven minutes instead of 11 minutes like yesterday. I really wanted that takedown in the third."
On whether he used previous NCAA disappointment as motivation ... "I didn't really use that as motivation that I lost prior at nationals. I was just coming in here and knew that if I wrestled to my best of my ability, I would be able to come out and win the whole thing. So, that really wasn't motivation for me; it was more motivation of my hard work throughout the season."
On coming off of his redshirt season ... "I think that sparked that fire again. I had a lot of tough matches this week that I really had to dig deep, and I had that little extra thing. I wasn't here last year, and I really wanted to come out and wrestle to the best of my ability. I think having a year off really helped me spark that little fire again."
On wrestling in front of a close-to-hometown crowd ... "When I found out that nationals were going to be in Philly, I was really excited about it. It is real close to my hometown, and I have a lot of friends and family that have been watching me all weekend on TV and coming down here. So, going into the weekend, I knew there might have been chances for me to become distracted by all the people I know here, but I was really concentrating on staying focused the whole time and staying focused on one match at a time. I think that took a lot of effort, but it's good to go through that experience."
On advice he would give to younger teammates ... "One of the biggest things is being familiar with where you're wrestling. I know my freshman year I wasn't prepared at all for coming to nationals. I thought I had been to big tournaments before, but stepping foot on the mat here for the first time my freshman year was a huge kind of shock to the system with having so many people here cheering and loud and all the distractions going on. So, I probably would them to be familiar and comfortable with your surroundings and just be confident in your wrestling."
On what it means to win for Michigan ... "It feels amazing. It's a great honor to even compete for the University of Michigan. All the people in my life that have helped me throughout school, wrestling and everything else, it really pushed me to be a better student and a better athlete and that led me to Michigan. Just to be able to wrestle for Michigan is great, and to win a national title, I feel like I'm able to give back a little to them and show the wrestling community like how great the University of Michigan is."
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423