Week #12: at Big Ten Championships

March 1, 2011

Sat-Sun., March 5-6 -- at Big Ten Championships (Evanston, Ill.), 10 a.m. /1 p.m. CST
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After a successful Big Ten Conference dual season, the No. 11-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team (11-5, 5-3 Big Ten) will look for continued success in the postseason when it heads to Evanston, Ill., to participate in the 2011 Big Ten Championships, hosted by Northwestern University on Saturday and Sunday (March 5-6) at the Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Big Ten Championships will take place in three sessions over the course of two days. Wrestling will begin on Saturday (March 5) with the first session slated to start at 10 a.m. CST with the first and quarterfinal rounds of all weights. Consolation action and semifinal matches will take place Saturday evening at 5 p.m. CST. The Sunday (March 7) session will feature consolation finals at 1 p.m. CST and championship finals slated for approximately 3 p.m. CST. The finals will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.

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 (122) in the conference (Iowa is first with 186). Michigan has finished in the top five in 10 of the past 13 seasons but has not finished higher than its second-place showing in the 1990-91 season.

Michigan's Big Ten Championships Lineup

Wgt. Name Year/Elig. Hometown (High School)
125 Sean Boyle So./So. Lowell, Mass. (Blair Academy)
133 Zac Stevens Jr./Jr. Monroe, Mich. (Monroe)
141 Kellen Russell Sr./Jr. High Bridge, N.J. (Blair Academy)
149 Eric Grajales So./Fr. Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)
157 Brandon Zeerip So./Fr. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
165 Dan Yates So./Fr. Hesperia, Mich. (Hesperia)
174 Justin Zeerip Sr./Jr. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
184 Hunter Collins Jr./So. Gilroy, Calif. (Gilroy)
197 Anthony Biondo 5th/Sr. Clinton Twp., Mich. (Chippewa Valley)
Hwt Ben Apland Jr./So. Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)

Complete Statistics: Through Feb. 18

The Wolverines used bonus points and a late surge to cruise past intrastate rival Michigan State, 24-15, their 2011 dual-meet finale on Feb. 18. Down three points with just two matches remaining, junior Zac Stevens and senior/junior Kellen Russell claimed a technical fall and pin at 133 and 141 pounds, respectively, to overwhelm the Spartans. Michigan also earned victories from sophomore/freshman Eric Grajales -- who knocked off 20th-ranked Dan Osterman, 10-1, at 149 pounds -- sophomore/freshman Dan Yates (165), fifth-year senior Anthony Biondo (197) and junior/sophomore Ben Apland (Hwt).

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 122 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 184. U-M has claimed at least one champion in eight of the last 10 seasons and has boasted three individual champions in two of the last three seasons.

A Young Crowd -- Three Wolverine wrestlers -- sophomore/freshman Eric Grajales (149), sophomore/freshman Brandon Zeerip (157) and sophomore/freshman Dan Yates (165) -- will be making their Big Ten Championships debut this weekend. Conversely, fifth-year senior Anthony Biondo (197) will make his fourth Big Ten appearance, looking to improve on this career-best third-place finish from last season.

The Host with the Most -- Northwestern University will serve as the host of the Big Ten Championships for the 13th time in conference history and first time since 2001. Michigan has placed among the top six in each previous trip to Evanston for the tournament, including first-place performances in 1938, 1944, 195 and 1963 and runner-up finishes in 1943, 1951, 1957 and 1974. In Michigan's most-recent host turn, in 2001, the Wolverines claimed fourth place with 109 points and one individual champion [Otto Olson, 174 pounds].

Back for More -- Senior/junior Kellen Russell will seek his third Big Ten title at 141 pounds after claiming back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009. [Minnesota's Mike Thorn took the 141-pound title during Russell's redshirt year in 2010.] Michigan has had 21 two-time Big Ten champions and nine three-time Big Ten champions, most recently Steve Luke, who captured three straight 174-pound titles from 2007-09. Russell is the first Wolverine wrestler to repeat in the 141-pound weight class. He owns a perfect 8-0 record in two previous appearances at the Big Ten Tournament.

Picture Perfect -- Senior/junior Kellen Russell remains one of the nation's lone undefeated wrestlers -- with a perfect 30-0 record -- and has done so against a tough field at 141 pounds. Among Russell's wins this season, he has defeated six ranked opponents, including four currently listed among the nation's top seven in Iowa's No. 3 Montell Marion, Minnesota's No. 2 Mike Thorn, Illinois' No. 4 Jimmy Kennedy, Cal Poly's No. 5 Boris Novachkov and Penn State's No. 7 Andrew Alton.

Russell is no stranger to starting a season on a tear; he kicked off 2007-08 -- his true freshman campaign -- with an 18-0 record before falling twice at the National Duals. Dating back to the seventh-place match at the 2009 NCAA Championships, Russell owns a 31-match winning streak. It is the longest win streak of his collegiate career. He previously recorded a 23-match win streak during his sophomore season. Russell has lost back-to-back matches on just two occasions his collegiate career -- at the 2008 National Duals and the 2008 NCAA Championships.

Big Bonus -- Michigan has shown a knack for scoring big points in tournaments this season en route to a pair of top-six team performances. The Wolverines earned bonus points in 10 of its 29 wins at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, where they finished sixth with four individual placewinners. At the Southern Scuffle just weeks later, Michigan claimed bonus points in 24 of 45 wins -- earning 12 pins and eight major decisions -- en route to a fourth-place team finish and eight placewinners.

Reaching the Century Mark -- Fifth-year senior captain Anthony Biondo collected his 100th collegiate win with his 10-5, rally-inducing decision against Ohio State's Peter Capone on Jan. 28. With a career mark of 103-43, Biondo becomes the 33rd member of the Wolverines' prestigious 100-Win Club and the first since former Wolverines Steve Luke and Tyrel Todd surpassed the 100-win milestone during the 2008-09 season. Senior/junior captain Kellen Russell also stands within striking distance of the win milestone, carrying a 95-11 career record into weekend action.

Freshman Phenoms -- Michigan's starting lineup features three freshmen at consecutive weights -- Eric Grajales (149), Brandon Zeerip (157) and Dan Yates (165) -- and the trio has played a big role in the Wolverines' recent success, combining for a 15-8 record in Big Ten duals with two pins, a technical fall and two major decisions.

Give Me Just a Little More Time -- Senior/junior Kellen Russell claimed three straight overtime wins to end the Big Ten dual season, defeating Penn State's No. 7 Andrew Alton, 3-1, in the tiebreaker, before beating Minnesota's No. 2 Mike Thorn, 3-1, and Iowa's No. 3 Montell Marion, 9-5, in sudden victory. The overtime matches were Russell's first of the season. He owns a career 7-0 record in overtime matches.

A Reversal of Fortune -- After returning from a two-week absence from injury, senior/junior captain Justin Zeerip ended the Big Ten dual season on a high note, earning back-to-back wins over Big Ten wrestlers to whom he had previously lost. Zeerip kicked off the Wolverines' victory at Wisconsin with an upset win against 12th-ranked Ben Jordan, using 1:25 in riding-time advantage to secure a 2-1 decision and avenge a 4-1 loss in the wrestleback round at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. The following week, he used an early takedown to edge Minnesota's No. 12 Scott Glasser, 4-1. It was Zeerip's first win over Glasser in four career meetings.

Zeerip is one of six different Michigan wrestlers to flip a loss to a familiar opponent this season. Sophomore Sean Boyle, sophomore/freshman Eric Grajales, sophomore/freshman Dan Yates and fifth-year senior Anthony Biondo all achieved the feat in Michigan's win over Lehigh at the Virginia Duals, while sophomore/freshman Brandon Zeerip avenged an early season loss to Central Michigan's Eric Cubberly with a dominant 19-7 major decision in a dual at CMU.

Tough Score -- Senior/junior Kellen Russell has only allowed five takedowns this season -- two of which came in the third period against Iowa's No. 3-ranked Montell Marion. He has also allowed takedowns against Lehigh's Stephen Dutton, Hofstra's Vicente Varela and Penn State's Andrew Alton. Russell has only trailed late in a match twice this season -- against Marion and in his first of three meetings against Alton. He converted on takedowns in the final 20 seconds to win both. For his part, Russell owns 58 takedowns on the season.

Dual Domination -- With fall against Michigan State's Levi Stance in the Wolverines' dual-meet finale, senior/junior Kellen Russell extended his dual winning streak to 32 consecutive matches. The Wolverine captain sat out last season with injury but, after starting 1-1 in 2008-09 dual meets, won 16 consecutive dual appearances to close out the season. Russell boasts an impressive 52-6 dual record over his collegiate career.

Bringing Out Brandon -- Since joining the starting lineup at 157 pounds, sophomore/freshman Brandon Zeerip has posted a 6-4 dual record and went 5-3 in Big Ten matches. He has earned three bonus wins, including a pair of falls, and claimed Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors after pinning Purdue's 19th-ranked Colton Salazar (5:27, Jan. 14) in his dual-meet debut.

Boy-O-Boyle -- With 23 total wins on the season, sophomore Sean Boyle has already surpassed his win total from a year ago (20). He went 8-5 in dual-meet competition, including a 5-3 mark in Big Ten duals. Boyle also owns career highs in dual wins (8), pins (2) and major decisions (4).

A Strong Start -- Michigan won seven of 10 individual matches in each of its first five Big Ten duals of the season en route to a 5-0 start -- the Wolverines best start in conference action since going 8-0 en route to the 2005-06 Big Ten dual-meet title. Three of U-M's Big Ten wins came against ranked competition -- No. 6 Wisconsin (26-9, Feb. 4), No. 19 Northwestern (22-12, Jan. 21) and No. 21 Purdue (28-13, Jan. 14).

Marked Improvement -- The Wolverines' 21-18 semifinal victory over No. 9-ranked Lehigh provided the highlight of its 3-1 record and runner-up effort at the Virginia Duals, held Jan. 7-8. Michigan claimed six individual wins against the Mountain Hawks, taking five of the first six matches, and five Wolverine wrestlers avenged losses from U-M's 25-6 road loss against Lehigh earlier this season on Nov. 19. Sophomore Sean Boyle (125), sophomore/freshman Eric Grajales (149), fifth-year senior Aaron Hynes (157), sophomore/freshman Dan Yates (165) and fifth-year senior Anthony Biondo (197) all avenged decision losses in the previous meeting, while senior/junior Kellen Russell (141) claimed his second win over the Mountain Hawks this season.

Calling the Shots -- Head coach Joe McFarland is in his 12th 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 147-69-5 record at the helm and has led 18 different student-athletes to three NCAA individual titles, 39 All-America citations and 17 Big Ten individual crowns.

The Wolverines remained in the No. 11 position for the final 2011 NWCA/USA Today Division I Team Coaches poll, released last Tuesday (Feb. 23). Michigan also boasts nine individuals ranked among the top 25 wrestlers in their respective weight classes in the InterMat, Amateur Wrestling News, WIN Magazine or Division I College Wrestling polls:

Wt. Name Coaches IM AWN WIN D1CW
125 Sean Boyle 26 NR NR NR NR
133 Zac Stevens 21 NR NR NR 24
141 Kellen Russell 1 1 1 1 1
149 Eric Grajales 23 NR 17 NR 24
157 Brandon Zeerip 24 NR NR NR 25
165 Dan Yates 20 NR 19 NR 23
174 Justin Zeerip 20 18 16 NR 19
197 Anthony Biondo 11 11 11 10 11
Hwt Ben Apland 14 17 13 14 19

Thu-Sat., March 17-19, 10 a.m. -- at NCAA Championships (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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