March 5, 2013
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS (Tournament Central)
Sat-Sun., March 9-10 -- at Big Ten Championships (Champaign, Ill.), 10 a.m./11:30 a.m. CST
The No. 18-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team (10-7, 3-5 Big Ten) will kick off the postseason this weekend, traveling to Champaign, Ill., to participate in the 2013 Big Ten Championships, hosted by the University of Illinois on Saturday and Sunday (March 9-10) at Assembly Hall.
The Big Ten Championships will take place in three sessions over the course of two days. Wrestling will begin on Saturday (March 9) 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. The Sunday (March 10) session will feature consolation finals at 11:30 a.m. and championship finals slated for approximately 1:30 p.m. The finals will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network, while rounds I-III will be streamed live via the MGoBlue.com All-Access Player and 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 (124) in the conference (Iowa is first with 190). Michigan has finished in the top five in 11 of the past 15 seasons but has not finished higher since its second-place showing in the 1990-91 season.
Michigan's Projected Starting Lineup
|Wgt.||Name||Year/Elig.||Hometown (High School)|
|125||Sean Boyle||Sr./Jr.||Lowell, Mass. (Blair Academy)|
|133||Rossi Bruno||Fr./Fr.||Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)|
|141||Camryn Jackson||So./Fr.||Lansing, Mich. (Eastern)|
|149||Eric Grajales||Sr./Jr.||Brandon, Fla. (Brandon)|
|157||Collin Zeerip||Jr./So.||Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)|
|165||Taylor Massa||Fr./Fr.||St. Johns, Mich. (St. Johns)|
|174||Dan Yates||Sr./Jr.||Hesperia, Mich. (Hesperia)|
|184||Chris Heald||Jr./So.||West Bloomfield, Mich. (West Bloomfield)|
|197||Max Huntley||Jr./So.||Emerald Isle, N.C. (Blair Academy)|
|Hwt||Ben Apland||5th Sr.||Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)|
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.
With 124 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 190. U-M has claimed at least one champion in 10 of the last 12 seasons and has boasted three individual champions in two of the last five seasons.
Michigan will bring a young crew to the meet, with half its lineup slated to make its Big Ten debut -- Rossi Bruno (133 pounds), Camryn Jackson (141), Collin Zeerip (157), Taylor Massa (165) and Chris Heald (184).
The University of Illinois will serve as the host of the Big Ten Championships for the ninth time in conference history and first time since 2002. Since the point system was implemented in 1934, Michigan has placed among the top five in all six previous trips to Champaign for the tournament, including runner-up performances in 1948, 1966 and 1991. In Illinois' most-recent host turn, in 2002, the Wolverines took third place with 121.5 points and nine placewinners.
Senior/Junior Eric Grajales carries a 10-match win streak into the Big Ten tournament. Grajales, who posted a perfect 8-0 Big Ten dual-meet record, earned three wins over nationally ranked opposition -- Oregon State's Scott Sakaguchi (6-3, Feb. 17), Purdue's Ivan Lopouchanski (10-6, Feb. 3) and Nebraska's Jake Sueflohn (3-2, Jan. 11) -- and five bonus wins over the stretch. He is 18-5 in Big Ten dual competition over his career.
Grajales avenged an earlier-season loss to OSU's Scott Sakaguchi at the National Duals on Feb. 17, using a pair of first-period takedowns to defeat the then-seventh-ranked Beaver wrestler, 6-3. Grajales gave up no offensive points, sacrificing only an escape, a locked-hands call and a stall call. The Wolverine dropped a 9-6 decision to Sakaguchi in November.
Senior/junior Dan Yates posted bonus points in both of his wins at the National Duals, including a pin against Oklahoma's Matt Reed (5:23). Yates owns 14 bonus wins on the season with three falls, one technical fall and four major decisions.
Freshman Taylor Massa leads the Wolverine team with a 23-6 record, including an unbeaten 7-0 mark in Big Ten duals. Massa also leads in two bonus categories with five pins and six technical falls. The U-M rookie has earned bonus points in 15 of 23 wins this season (65.2 percent) and, excluding pins, has outscored his opposition, 270-112. Three of his season losses have come by just two points.
Massa and Yates placed at both Wolverine tournament appearances this season.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Q: Does you mentality change as you approach the postseason tournaments?
A: In the past I think it did -- in a negative sense. It was almost like I was worn out and ready for the season to be done. But now I feel a lot more confident and better about the training we did in the preseason and during the season and how we built up to this moment. We're all ready to go. Some of us have bumps and bruises here and there, but I think our mentalities are so strong that I'm confident that we'll all be able to push through and not let it affect us.
Q: Is it helpful to have spring break the week prior to Big Tens?
A: It's great. From an academic perspective, we only have about three weeks after NCAAs until finals, so it gives us a week where nobody is around to get ahead in our studies. We can practice hard in the morning and relax and do some schoolwork in the afternoon. That helps us focus more on wrestling as we approach NCAAs too.
Q: How do you feel going into Big Tens? You had wins and losses during the Big Ten dual season, but you seemed to be right there with everybody.
A: Yeah, I felt like I was right with everybody. I was battling that little knee injury. But I feel like now that I've got my motion back, wrestling with the coaches and some of my teammates, I'm pretty confident in my ability to perform well at Big Tens. I'm looking forward to it. This tournament will essentially be a tougher version of NCAAs. Every single round will be a guy who's ranked top 10 in the nation. It's definitely going to be fun.
Q: What do you work on at this point in the season?
A: For me, it's just the mentality part. Mr. [Mark] Churella came in and spoke to us the other day. He said some things that really tweaked my mentality and really got me to focus in on what's going to get me to that next level. Like the coaches say, everyone in our room has the skill and technique in the world, they just need to get past that mental barrier and be ready to go.
Q: How much do you think the tournament team has shaped up over the last several months?
A: I'd definitely say it's strengthened. Look at how much a guy like Eric Grajales has stepped it up lately. He's really turned himself around and gone out there and attacked the whole time. We've had several guys doing more of that. They're not afraid to give it their all. That will definitely help us in these tournaments.
U-M Individual Rankings
LAST TIME OUT
The Wolverines split their matches at the Cliff Keen/NWCA National Duals regional (Feb. 17), falling to host and No. 9-ranked Oregon State, 22-13, before defeating No. 25 Oklahoma, 25-19, at Gil Coliseum. Michigan took four matches against OSU and twice held narrow three-point advantages in the team score, before the Beavers claimed the final three bouts, taking swing matches at 184 and 197 pounds, to pull away. The Wolverines split matches with Oklahoma, earning bonus points in four, including a pin at 174 pounds and a disqualification victory at 197. Senior/juniors Eric Grajales and Dan Yates posted 2-0 records at 149 and 174 pounds, respectively. [ Full Recap ]
Thu-Sat., March 21-23 -- at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)