April 9, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan wrestling team, which took 11th at the NCAA Championships and crowned its third NCAA individual champion in six years, celebrated its 2011-12 season and announced the team awards at its annual team banquet on Saturday (April 7) at the Junge Champions Center.
For the second time in as many years, fifth-year senior Kellen Russell (High Bridge, N.J./Blair Academy) took home the event's most prestigious awards, capturing both the Cliff Keen Award for Most Outstanding Wrestler and the Steve Fraser Award for Mental Toughness. Russell became the sixth Wolverine wrestler to capture multiple NCAA titles when he defeated Iowa's Montell Marion, 6-4 SV, in the 141-pound final at last month's NCAA Championships. A four-time Big Ten champion, he posted a 33-1 record this season and went 134-12 in his collegiate career, ranking eighth among Michigan's all-time winningest wrestlers. His .918 career win percentage ranks second in program history.
Senior Zac Stevens (Monroe, Mich./Monroe HS) received the Jeff Reese Award as the most improved wrestler for his dedication to improving his skill and increasing his contribution to the team. A four-year starter at 133 pounds, Stevens improved his record in each of his collegiate seasons, posting a 27-11 mark this year en route to his first NCAA All-America citation. He recorded his best career finish at the Big Ten Championships, taking fourth, before avenging two season losses in a seventh-place performance at the NCAA event.
The Mark Churella Most Outstanding Freshman Award went to sophomore/freshman Max Huntley (Emerald Isle, N.C./Blair Academy), who registered a 15-15 record in his first varsity season at 197 pounds and placed in four tournament appearances. Huntley, who sat out nearly the entire 2010-11 season with injury, was ranked for the bulk of the year, earning wins over four ranked opponents, including Illinois' Mario Gonzalez, the eventual Big Ten champion.
Junior/sophomore Brandon Zeerip (Fremont, Mich./Hesperia HS) received his second consecutive Dr. Donahue Award for Academic Excellence Award, presented annually to the wrestler who has shown exemplary performance in the classroom and maintains the highest grade-point average on the team. Zeerip is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and has earned U-M Athletic Academic Achievement honors in each of his three years at Michigan. Zeerip posted a 12-15 record this season at 157 pounds.
Fifth-year senior Dave Johnson (Jenison, Mich./Jenison HS) garnered the 11th Man Award for showing the most outstanding team dedication and effort in his willingness to help their teammates. Johnson appeared at three different weight classes this season, bumping up two spots to represent the Wolverines at 184 pounds at the Big Ten Championships. Johnson, who suffered two season-ending injuries over his five-year collegiate career, was a three-year letterwinner and a season-long starter at 157 pounds as a sophomore in 2009-10, taking sixth place at the Big Ten Championships.
The Wolverines concluded the 2011-12 season with a 6-6 record, including a 4-4 mark against Big Ten competition. U-M posted an 11th-place team showing at the NCAA Championships -- the program's 11th top-15 finish in 12 seasons.
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423