Week #6: Sixteen Wolverines Headed to Mat Town Invitational
Max Huntley

Dec. 27, 2011

Thursday, Dec. 29 -- at Mat Town Invitational (Lock Haven, Pa.), 9 a.m.
Mat Town Invitational Site | Twitter Updates

The No. 8-ranked University of Michigan wrestling team will send 16 representatives to the Mat Town Invitational this Thursday (Dec. 29) at Thomas Fieldhouse in Lock Haven, Pa. The tournament's first round is slated for a 9 a.m. start, while the finals are scheduled for 6 p.m.

Participating teams include host Lock Haven, Pitt, Drexel, Old Dominion, Kent State, Bloomsburg, Columbia, Sacred Heart, VMI, and Franklin and Marshall. Each team is allowed a maximum of two wrestlers per weight class. Team scoring will use each school's top scoring wrestler at each of the 10 weights.

Michigan's Projected Lineup

Wgt. Name Year/Elig. Hometown (High School)
125 Grant Pizzo Jr./So. Brighton, Mich. (Brighton)
  Ryan Abrigo Fr./Fr. Manchester, Mich. (Manchester)
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)
  Mike Hillock Jr./So. Massillon, Ohio (Perry)
157 Brandon Zeerip Jr./So. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
  Jake Salazar So./Fr. Midway, Utah (Wasatch)
165 Dan Yates Jr./So. Hesperia, Mich. (Hesperia)
  Dave Johnson 5th/Sr. Jenison, Mich. (Jenison)
174 Justin Zeerip Sr./Jr. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
  Collin Zeerip So./Fr. Fremont, Mich. (Hesperia)
184 Hunter Collins Sr./Jr. Gilroy, Calif. (Gilroy)
  Chris Heald So./Fr. West Bloomfield, Mich. (West Bloomfield)
197 Max Huntley So./Fr. Emerald Isle, N.C. (Blair Academy)
Hwt Ben Apland Sr./Jr. Woodridge, Ill. (Downers Grove South)

Complete Statistics: Through Dec. 11

LAST TIME OUT: vs. Wisconsin
The Wolverines won six individual bouts, including the final four of the afternoon, and earned three major decisions to rally past Wisconsin, 21-12, in their Big Ten opener (Dec. 11). Junior/sophomore Grant Pizzo, fifth-year senior Kellen Russell and fifth-year senior Justin Zeerip posted major decisions at 125, 141 and 174 pounds, respectively. Zeerip's win kicked off the rally for the Maize and Blue, evening the team score at 12-12, before junior/sophomore Hunter Collins gave U-M the lead for good with a comeback win at 184 pounds. [ Full Recap ]

Debut Darlings -- Junior/sophomore Grant Pizzo and sophomore/freshman Max Huntley earned victories in their Cliff Keen Arena debuts, posting wins at 125 and 197 pounds, respectively, in Michigan's Big Ten opener against Wisconsin (Dec. 11). Pizzo cruised past Austin Hieptas, 9-1, to give U-M the dual's initial advantage, while Huntley used an overtime takedown to defeat Jackson Hein, 4-2, and seal the Wolverines' conference win.

What Happens in Vegas -- Junior/sophomore Eric Grajales claimed his first collegiate tournament title by winning the 149-pound crown at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 2-3) with a 4-0 record, including three bonus wins. He earned a 9-1 major decision over Air Force's fifth-ranked Cole Von Ohlen in the championship match, scoring three takedowns and a reversal while accumulating 4:42 in riding-time advantage. Grajales is 9-2 on the season.

No Longer Streaking -- Fifth-year senior Kellen Russell saw his 46-match win streak come to an end in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational quarterfinal round, where he fell to Ohio State's Hunter Stieber, 6-5. The streak 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's win streak covered three different seasons, extending back to the 2009 NCAA seventh-place match. He posted an undefeated 38-0 season last year. 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.

Bouncing Back -- Fifth-year senior Kellen Russell posted a 6-1 record en route to third place at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Dec. 2-3), claiming four straight consolation wins after an unexpected quarterfinal loss. Among his second-day victories, Russell used a mere two seconds of riding time to edge Cal Poly's then-No. 2-ranked Boris Novachkov, 2-2 in the third tiebreaker, in the consolation semifinals. In four career appearances at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Russell won twice at 141 pounds and twice took third place. He boasted an impressive 22-2 career record at the annual Vegas event.

Reversal of Fortune -- Fifth-year senior Justin Zeerip (Fremont, Mich./Hesperia HS) is 11-1 on the season, and among his victories are two decisions over opponents who beat him a year ago. Zeerip used a pair of reversals to edge Pittsburgh's Ethan Headlee in his most recent match (Nov. 19), avenging a 3-1 sudden-victory loss to the Panther wrestler in last season's dual opener. In his season debut at the Michigan State open (Nov. 12), Zeerip earned a decisive 9-4 victory over Michigan State's Curran Jacobs in the semifinal round. Jacobs had previously defeated the Wolverine, 6-5 in the tiebreaker, at the 2011 Big Ten Championships.

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 149-70-5 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 premier 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 last 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 the program in the rapid-fire Wolverine Wrestling Wrap audio podcast. The Wolverine coaches will touch on topics ranging from the wrestlers, Michigan's opponents, strategy and the other events of the season in each weekly feature.

• Michigan wrestling is now on Twitter. Sign up and follow the Wolverines (umichwrestling) with up-to-the-minute news and information throughout the season and beyond. Twitter is a free, casual, online social network that is designed to connect businesses, organizations and individuals. Each Twitter post (or "tweet") can be received on a user's cell phone via text or on the web.

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Michigan held on to the No. 8 position in the latest NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll, released Tuesday (Dec. 20). [ Full Rankings ]

The Wolverines also 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:

Wt. Name   IM    AWN   WIN  D1CW
133 Zac Stevens 15 15 15 15
141 Kellen Russell 3 2 2 2
149 Eric Grajales 4 3 4 4
165 Dan Yates 17 20 NR 17
174 Justin Zeerip 5 10 10 9
197 Max Huntley NR NR NR 22
Hwt Ben Apland 18 15 11 13

Friday, Jan. 6 -- at Northwestern (Evanston, Ill.), 7 p.m. CST
Sunday, Jan. 8 -- vs. Illinois (Cliff Keen Arena), 2 p.m.

Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423

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