2011 Michigan Athletes of the Year
Kellen Russell, University of Michigan Wrestler
Senior/junior Kellen Russell completed a perfect season in 2010-11, posting a flawless 38-0 record en route to the 141-pound NCAA individual title. He was one of only five wrestlers nationally to go undefeated and was the lone Big Ten Conference performer to accomplish the feat.
The Wolverine captain, who did not compete last season due to injury, became the 21st NCAA champion in Michigan program history with a 3-2 decision over Cal Poly's Boris Novachkov in the championship finale at the NCAA Tournament. Fighting through a second-period ankle injury, Russell scored the winning takedown out of a late scramble with 20 seconds remaining in regulation. The victory netted Russell his second All-America citation at 141 pounds; he placed seventh as a sophomore (2009).
A native of High Bridge, N.J., Russell achieved his undefeated season against a particularly tough field at 141 pounds. He won eight of his last 12 matches either in overtime or by less than two points, including back-to-back tiebreaker decisions in the NCAA quarterfinals and semifinals. Over the stretch, Russell wrestled eight matches against top-10 opponents and five matches against top-five competition.
Russell captured his third Big Ten 141-pound title with an 8-4 decision over Minnesota's Mike Thorn in the 2011 championship match. He is the 10th U-M wrestler in program history to claim three conference titles. He also won individual tournament crowns at the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and Southern Scuffle events.
A physical education major, Russell was the named the U-M's 2011 recipient of the Cliff Keen Most Outstanding Wrestler and Steve Fraser Mental Toughness awards.
In 2011, Russell became the eighth Wolverine wrestler to post a perfect season en route to an NCAA title and the second in three seasons, joining Steve Luke (2006-09), who went 35-0 and claimed the NCAA 174-pound title in 2009. Through his three collegiate seasons, Russell boasts a 101-11 career record, and his career winning percentage of .902 ranks as the fourth best in U-M program history.
Adding his win in the 2009 NCAA seventh-place match, Russell has won 39 straight matches, the program's third-longest streak.
Kylee Botterman, University of Michigan Women's Gymnast
A senior captain from New Lenox, Ill., Kylee Botterman won the 2011 AAI Award (equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) as the nation's top senior student-athlete in NCAA Division I women's gymnastics. She was a finalist for the Honda Sports Award for gymnastics and is currently a candidate for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Botterman led Michigan into the NCAA's Super 6 competition for the first time in seven years after winning the NCAA all-around title with a score of 39.575, and earning four All-America awards. In addition to the all-round title, she was a All-American first teamer on the vault, beam and floor exercise, finishing runner-up on floor with a 9.900 score.
Botterman led the Wolverines to the 2011 NCAA Ann Arbor Regional championship with a 39.500 score to capture the all-around title and won her third straight floor exercise title with a 9.925 score. She was also runner-up on vault, fourth on beam and fifth on bars. Botterman was selected as the NCAA Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year for her performance in the championship.
In 2011, Botterman led the Wolverines to their fifth consecutive Big Ten title. She was named the Big Ten Gymnast of the Year after winning the all-around crown. Botterman won the floor (9.950), was runner-up on beam and placed fourth on vault. She earned All-Big Ten first team for her effort during the season. In addition, Botterman earned Academic All-Big Ten.
Overall, Botterman won the all-around title in 12 meets during the season and won Big Ten Gymnast of the Week a record-tying five times. She also shared the team's Most Valuable Performer Award, her third straight.
Botterman graduated from Michigan with a general studies major from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts in April 2011.
She finished her career as a nine-time All-American (seven first-team citations, two second-team citations). Botterman was a two-time NCAA Regional all-around champion and three-time floor exercise champion. She earned All-Big Ten first team accolades all four years and earned conference Gymnast of the Week seven times over of her final two seasons.
Botterman graduated with the second-best single-season all-around average (49.500), second-best beam average (9.853), fourth-best floor average (9.893) and seventh-best vault average (9.807) in program history. She is seventh all-time in school history with 33 all-around scores of 39.000 or greater.
Sam Mikulak, University of Michigan Men's Gymnast
Sam Mikulak, a freshman gymnast from Corona Del Mar, Calif., was the 2011 NCAA all-around champion, becoming the first freshman in the history of the sport to accomplish the feat. A four-time All-American in his rookie season, he is the second straight Wolverine to win the national all-around competition (and third in school history), following Chris Cameron in 2010.
Mikulak was the Big Ten Conference's best gymnast during the 2011 season, leading the Wolverines to a second-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. There, Mikulak was the Big Ten all-around champion -- the first freshman to win the all-around competition since 1994 -- claiming third on vault (16.20), fourth on parallel bars (14.60), fifth on high bar (13.95) and 10th on pommel horse (11.40). He was named the 2011 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, en route to All-Big Ten first team honors.
Prior to his all-around performance at the Big Ten meet, Mikulak competed in every event only twice during the regular season: March 12 against Oklahoma (87.35, second place) and March 19 against Ohio State (87.05, first place). Additionally, Mikulak was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week four times during the regular season.
His best gymnastics came at the NCAA Championships, where he helped lead the Wolverines to a fifth-place finish as a team. Mikulak set a career high in the all-around (90.75), earning a bronze medal on floor exercise (15.70), as well as placing fourth on parallel bars (14.70) and seventh on the vault (15.50). In all, Mikulak earned four All-America citations for his performances at the meet, claiming the honor in the all-around competition, as well as on floor exercise, vault and parallel bars. He is also the first Wolverine since Scott Vetere in 2001 (and third in program history) to receive four All-America honors in the same season.
Mikulak won 12 events during the 2011 season: four on vault, three in all-around competition, twice on floor exercise, and one each on pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar.