Week #13: Wrestling Wolverines Set For Big Ten Championships
Zac Stevens

Feb. 28, 2012

Sat-Sun., March 3-4 -- at Big Ten Championships (West Lafayette, Ind.), 10 a.m. /1 p.m.
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Live Video (Rounds I-III) | TV: Big Ten Network (finals)

The No. 14-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten) will kick off the postseason this weekend, traveling to West Lafayette, Ind., to participate in the 2012 Big Ten Championships, hosted by Purdue University on Saturday and Sunday (March 3-4) at the Mackey Arena.

The Big Ten Championships will take place in three sessions over the course of two days. Wrestling will begin on Saturday (March 3) with the first session slated to start at 10 a.m. with the first and quarterfinal rounds of all weights. Consolation action and semifinal matches will take place Saturday evening at 5 p.m. The Sunday (March 4) session will feature consolation finals at 1 p.m. and championship finals slated for approximately 3 p.m. The finals will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network, while Rounds I-III will be streamed live on BTN.com.

U-M has won 11 Big Ten team championships (1929, '38, '44, '53, '55, '56, '60, '63, '64, '65, '73) and has produced the second-most individual champions (123) in the conference (Iowa is first with 188). Michigan has finished in the top five in 11 of the past 14 seasons but has not finished higher than its second-place showing in the 1990-91 season.

Michigan's Projected Starting Lineup

Wgt. Name Year/Elig. Hometown (High School)
125 Grant Pizzo Jr./So. Brighton, Mich. (Brighton)
133 Zac Stevens Sr./Sr. Monroe, Mich. (Monroe)
141 Kellen Russell 5th/Sr. High Bridge, N.J. (Blair Academy)
149 Eric Grajales Jr./So. Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)
157 Brandon Zeerip Jr./So. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
165 Dan Yates Jr./So. Hesperia, Mich. (Hesperia)
174 Justin Zeerip 5th/Sr. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
184 Dave Johnson 5th/Sr. Jenison, Mich. (Jenison)
197 Max Huntley So./Fr. Emerald Isle, N.C. (Blair Academy)
Hwt Ben Apland Sr./Jr. Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)

Complete Statistics: Through Feb. 11


Looking For Another Trophy -- Michigan is in search of its 12th Big Ten Championships title in school history, and first since 1973, when the Wolverines sent two individuals to the winner's podium and earned 76 points to beat runner-up Iowa by seven points. U-M owns the fourth-most conference team titles in Big Ten history with 11.

No "I" in Team -- With 123 conference individual titles in program history (coming from 82 different wrestlers), the Wolverines boast the second most of any Big Ten school behind Iowa with 186. U-M has claimed at least one champion in nine of the last 11 seasons and has boasted three individual champions in two of the last four seasons.

An Experienced Group -- The Wolverines will bring an experienced crew to the 2012 Big Ten Championships, anchored by fourth-year starters Zac Stevens, Kellen Russell and Justin Zeerip. Only two members of Michigan's lineup will make their Big Ten debut -- junior/sophomore Grant Pizzo at 125 pounds and sophomore/freshman Max Huntley at 197.

The Host with the Most -- Purdue University will serve as the host of the Big Ten Championships for just the fourth time in conference history and first time since 2000. Michigan has placed among the top five in each previous trip to West Lafayette for the tournament, including third-place performances in 1971 and 1989. In Purdue's most-recent host turn, in 2000, the Wolverines took fifth place with 73 points and six placewinners.

Four to Score -- Fifth-year senior Kellen Russell will seek his fourth Big Ten title at 141 pounds after claiming back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009 and returning to the top of the podium last year (2011). Minnesota's Mike Thorn took the 141-pound title during Russell's redshirt year in 2010. The Big Ten has crowned just 10 four-time Big Ten champions in conference history and none since Iowa's Mark Ironside won four straight at 134 pounds from 1995-98. Russell became Michigan's 10th three-time Big Ten champion last season, improving to 11-0 record in three appearances at the conference tournament. The Wolverines have never had a four-time Big Ten champion.


We're Going Streaking (Again) -- Senior/junior Kellen Russell enters the Big Ten Championships with an 18-match win streak and recently completed a perfect 8-0 mark in Big Ten duals. Russell has lost just once over the last two seasons -- a 6-5 decision to Ohio State's Hunter Stieber in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational quarterfinal round, which snapped his 46-match win streak. That streak covered three seasons and stands as the second longest in Michigan program history, trailing only John Fisher (1985-86, '88-89), who recorded 47 straight wins between his junior and senior seasons. Russell previously compiled win streaks of 18 matches as a freshman and 23 matches as a sophomore and has lost back-to-back matches on just two occasions his collegiate career -- at the 2008 National Duals and the 2008 NCAA Championships.

In the Bonus -- Both fifth-year senior Kellen Russell and junior/sophomore Eric Grajales have earned bonus points in at least half of their matches this season. Russell has tallied bonus points in 16-of-26 matches (.615), boasting career wins with three technical falls and 11 major decisions, while Grajales has earned bonus in 10-of-20 matches (.500), similarly owning career bests in tech falls (3) and major decisions (5).

Climbing the Charts -- Fifth-year senior Kellen Russell enters the postseason with a career record of 126-12 and outright possession of the 13th spot among Michigan's all-time wins leaders. Russell needs six more wins to reach the 11th position, currently held by Mark Churella (132, 1976-79) and Andy Hrovat (132, 1999-2002). His current career win percentage of .913 ranks second among the Wolverines leaders in the category, trailing only Dave Porter (.944, 1966-68).

Nearing the Century Club -- Fifth-year senior Justin Zeerip sits at 95-64 in his career, closing in on Michigan's prestigious 100-Win Club. With five more wins, he will become the 35th Wolverine wrestle to tally 100 career victories.

Ironman -- Senior Zac Stevens has remained a consistent fixture in the Wolverine lineup over the last four seasons, appearing in every tournament and starting every dual meet -- a stretch of 66 consecutive duals -- at 133 pounds since his arrival on campus.

Dual Domination -- Fifth-year senior Kellen Russell closed out the dual-meet portion of his collegiate career with a stellar 62-6 dual record and did not lose a dual match in each of his final two seasons, winning 42 consecutive dual matches. Russell shares the fifth spot -- with Josh Churella (2005-08) -- among Michigan's all-time dual wins leaders. Churella boasted an identical 62-6 career dual record.

Big Bonus -- Michigan has shown a knack for scoring big points in tournaments this season en route to a pair of top-two team performances. The Wolverines earned bonus points in 18 wins at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 2-3), including six pins and three technical falls, en route to a runner-up finish and eight placewinners. At the Mat Town Invitational just weeks later (Dec. 29), Michigan also claimed bonus points in 18 wins -- earning seven pins and eight major decisions -- en route to first place team finish and 11 placewinners.

Boyle to Redshirt -- Junior Sean Boyle (Lowell, Mass./Blair Academy), the Wolverines' two-year starting 125-pounder, had surgery in December to mend a nagging pre-season injury and will now redshirt the 2011-12 season. Boyle, who went 28-15 last season, took fourth place at the 2011 Big Ten Championships and advanced to the NCAA Championships Round of 12, finishing just one match shy of All-America honors.

Calling the Shots -- Head coach Joe McFarland is in his 13th season as head coach of the Michigan wrestling team. Since taking over the reins in 1999, McFarland has helped mold Michigan into a highly-touted national contender, guiding the U-M wrestling squad to three Big Ten dual-meet championships (2004, '05, '06) and eight consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships (2001-08), including an NCAA runner-up performance in 2005. He is the third winningest coach in program history with a 153-75-5 record at the helm and has led 18 different student-athletes to four NCAA individual titles, 40 All-America citations and 18 Big Ten individual crowns.

Welcome Aboard -- Michigan added three new coaches to its staff this offseason -- assistants Sean Bormet and Donny Pritzlaff and volunteer coach Kyle Massey. Bormet rejoined the Wolverine program after molding the Overtime School of Wrestling into the nation's premiere wrestling club over the last 10 years. Bormet, a two-time All-American and Big Ten champion as a Wolverine wrestler (1991-94), previously spent one season as a Wolverine assistant coach (1999-2000). Pritzlaff served five seasons as an assistant coach at Wisconsin (2007-11) -- the last two as associate head coach -- where he guided the Badgers to three straight top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including a fourth-place finish in 2010. Massey spent the two seasons on the coaching staff at Wisconsin, serving one year as volunteer assistant coach (2009-10) and another as the Badgers' volunteer strength coach (2010-11).

Every week, members of the Michigan coaching staff will offer insider access to his program in the rapid-fire Wolverine Wrestling Wrap audio podcast. The Wolverine coaches will touch on topics ranging from his wrestlers, Michigan's opponents, strategy and the other events of the season in each weekly feature.

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The Wolverines boast seven individuals ranked among the top 20 wrestlers in their respective weight classes in the InterMat, Amateur Wrestling News, WIN Magazine or D1 College Wrestling polls:

133 Zac Stevens 14 9 10 10
141 Kellen Russell 1 1 1 1
149 Eric Grajales 7 6 8 6
165 Dan Yates 13 12 NR 20
174 Justin Zeerip 8 5 7 5
197 Max Huntley 14 15 20 18
Hwt Ben Apland 10 10 9 10

Thu-Sat., March 15-17 -- at NCAA Championships (St. Louis, Mo.)

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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