Wolverine Wrestling: A Look to the Future

Submitted by MichFan1997 on June 4th, 2009 at 5:25 PM

I want to repost this, just to see if I can generate discussion. If anybody has any thoughts about the wrestling program, I'd love to find people to talk with about it!!:

So last night, after Michigan's big 31-6 blow out of Penn State, me and another poster were having an IM conversation about Michigan Wrestling in the future. It got me to thinking about how awesome this team could be in 2 years. Here's a breakdown of a potential lineup for next year. Note the lack of seniors. This is why I think 2 years from now could be SPECIAL:

125: Sean Boyle (Blair Academy, NJ): Boyle is currently ranked 4th in the nation at 119 pounds in all classes. Blair is the premier wrestling program in American and is the same school that produced Michigan's current 141 pounder, Kellen Russell. With Michael Watts graduating and no immediate high profile pickups waiting in the wings, Boyle could start as a true freshman.

133: Eric Grajales (Brandon, FL): Grajales is also currently a highly rated HS recruit. He's #1 in the nation across all classes at 135 pounds. He will almost certainly start as a true freshman. Other options here include moving him up to 149 and keeping Zac Stevens in at 133 for another year, or moving him to 141 and bumping Russell to 149. For now, let's just say he goes 133.

141: Kellen Russell (Blair Academy, NJ): Russell is currently a sophomore and one of Michigan's most talented wrestlers. He finished with a 32-7 record and was Big Ten Champion at 141 pounds as a true freshman last year. He's currently ranked 5th in the country according to InterMat.com. He most certainly will start again, either here, or as previously stated, at 149 pounds.

149: Assuming my prediction is correct and Grajales and Russell cover 133/141, there are two options here. Mark Beaudry (Pueblo South, CO) is the current starter. However, Mark Weber (Goodrich, MI) was a 4x MHSAA champion and was 2nd in the nation at 135 as a senior last year. Weber is currently in his true freshman year and is not using his redshirt. He could use his redshirt next year, or become the starter.

157: Aaron Hynes (Flint Kearsley, MI): Before becoming a starter this year, Hynes had a 45-13 record in open tournaments. The sophomore is beginning to adjust nicely to the starting lineup. The 2x state champion should start the next two years beyond this one.

165: Justin Zeerip (Hesperia, MI): Just a redshirt freshman, Zeerip has struggled for much of this season. However, in his redshirt year, Zeerip went 23-6 in opens last season. He was a 4x undefeated state champ (260-0) in HS and took 3rd in the nation as a senior. He was a high profile recruit and should have a bright future. Perhaps a glimpse of that future was seen just last night when he defeated a Penn State wrestler who took 3rd at the NCAA's last year.

174: With Steve Luke graduating and nobody listed as a 174 pounder, Michigan might have to scratch to fill this spot next year. If anybody has an idea for 174, I'd love to hear it.

184: Hunter Collins (Gilroy, CA): Collins was one of the top recruits in last years class. He's currently taking his redshirt, but likely has a bright future as a 4 year starter. This year, he's lost in the numbers game amongst the veteran upper weights. He was a 4x California all-state wrestler. (California HS's compete in only ONE division, so this is a big deal). He was a Reno Champ in high school, and took 2nd in the nation at 171 pounds as a senior, losing to 3x Michigan champ and current CMU wrestler Ben Bennett in the finals.

197: Anthony Biondo (Chippewa Valley, MI): Currently ranked 13th in the nation at 184 pounds, Biondo will be entering his junior year next year. He was a 3x Michigan champ and an all-american as a senior. He could also remain at 184 with Collins coming up next year. However, this might be the better option with Biondo, the older wrestler, taking the higher weight. Keep in mind, Biondo was Michgian's starter here before switching weights with current senior Ty Todd this year.

285: Eddie Phillips (Lakewood, MI): Phillips is a sophomore and is a very athletic heavy. He was Michigan's 189 champ as a senior at Lakewood. He struggles at times, but has become a serviceable starter. Maybe he breaks out as a junior next year? He'll be pushed by Romeo's Chad Bleske for this spot.

Incoming recruits: Currently, I know of 4 recruits coming in next year. Dan Boyle and Eric Grajales were both mentioned as possible starters in the light weights. Michigan is also bring in Brandon Zeerip. Zeerip is the younger brother of current starter Justin. The younger Zeerip is the 10th ranked 152 pound wrestler in the country. Michigan also brings in a more unheralded national level recruit in Dundee's Pete Rendina. It is unclear at this time what type of future Rendina would have at Michigan, but he is a top senior in Michigan this year. His pull could also help with current HS sophomore Joey Rendina. Joey may be a top 5 in-state recruit as a senior.

Any more thoughts, I'd love to hear them.


Gerald R. Ford

June 4th, 2009 at 7:55 PM ^

Excellent post on an under-appreciated sport. Michigan's wrestling program has always been strong, and I hope that it will do exactly what you predict. Michigan is a strong wrestling state; we have relied on in-state talent for a long time. I was a reasonable wrestler for 10 years at 119-126, and I was not nearly good enough to even walk onto that team. I respect them infinitely. Not sure about now, but in the late 90's they were the meanest, nastiest, deathly serious group I had ever seen.


June 4th, 2009 at 10:32 PM ^

What does the college wrestling landscape look like? Who are the national/BigTen powers, who has the tradition? Where does Michigan normally stand? Have we won any NC's?

The Claw

June 4th, 2009 at 11:05 PM ^

I go to all the home matches. Absolutely love the sport. Got to chat with Coach McFarland when he saw me wearing a UM wrestling shirt as he was coming out of Mongolian. Super nice guy.

For once the low weights are gonna carry the team. You also forgot Coby Boyd who was redshirted and ranked in the top 5 of his weight class coming out of Graham. He could push for the 149 spot if he's still small. Not sure who will step in for 174 but I was extremely disappointed in Zeerip last year. Always seemed gassed after the first period. I also think we need a true heavyweight. Phillips is too small.

I think a few more upper weight recruits and this team could be special. And lets hope Steve Luke stays home and plays Xbox instead of helping the Buckeyes get better, as he's going to grad school at OSU.


June 6th, 2009 at 12:10 AM ^

Zeerip will be at 74 next year. The reason he seemed like he was gassing last year was the cut to 65 was too much for him. Its a move he had to make for the team though, and still qualified for nationals. I think he'll be a lot better this year up at 74.
As for Boyd, he's up in weight from what he came in at, I think around 57 or 65. As for upper weight recruits, Dan Yates is available, but last I saw wasn't listing M, next year they get a recruit on campus from a few classes ago, hunter collins, who was pretty highly thought of, but went on a mission trip.

EDIT: Collins may not be who I'm thinking of, that could be jake salazar, either way both where highly recruited and should contribute soon, one sooner than the other, who is on a mission trip.


June 5th, 2009 at 7:41 AM ^

people can even follow our wrestling program unless they're still in school. Kudos to you guys, but as for me, I don't have enough left over mental and emotional capacity after football to do other than wish them well.


June 5th, 2009 at 3:01 PM ^

a wrestling power in this state, it's hard NOT to follow wrestling, especially since I wrestled. Two of my best friends wrestle. One is a part-time starter for Minnesota, the other at Mercyhurst. Wrestling is definately one of my 3 favorite sports, along with football and baseball.

Michigan Arrogance

June 5th, 2009 at 7:52 AM ^

has a power base in the mid west... B10 and B12 have 15 of the top 20 programs in the nation. the other 5 usually consist of a few eastern schools like Lehigh. Iowa, ISU, OKST, Minn have been outstanding recently.

Elno Lewis

June 5th, 2009 at 8:06 AM ^

The wrestling team is unfortunately the best kept secret on campus. Love going to the home meets--not a bad seat in the house, the concessions are cheap, and parking is easy as long as there is not a hockey game at home. Crowds are always into it.

Wish they would do more matches at Crisler, but scheduling conflicts kind of mess this up.

McFarland is very kewl. He used to let my son work out with the team at Crisler every Weds. Had a great time and learned a lot. Wish the U would fork out some mor full schollies for the team---some of those guys are on half and quarter scholarships.

So, yeah--keep this stuff coming. I support your newsletter etc etc!


June 5th, 2009 at 5:37 PM ^

He lost at the palace his sophomore year, and I think once or twice outside of that. The only 4 time undefeated michigan kids I can think of are metcalf and zeerip, and perhaps both simmons brothers, but I'm not sure on them. Grajales was close in florida, only 2 losses in 4 years. Only kid in hs with a chance now is taylor massa of st. Johns, and ill b surprised if jordan thomas doesn't get him. Alex mooridian might have gone undefeated last year, but isn't as impressive as massa or thomas, and I don't think he does it, especially if freddie rodriguez goes up and gets him, or perhaps keselring or this years d2 champ whose name escapes me.


June 6th, 2009 at 3:12 AM ^

I know plenty enough about wrestling to know what Biondo accomplished in HS. Being from a Macomb County school myself, I got the chance to see him wrestle a few times a year. I'm not trying to downgrade his accomplishments. However, you did say he was unbeaten, which wasn't true. Only few have ever gone unbeaten in Michigan history. Brent Metcalf (Iowa), Justin Zeerip (Michigan), Nick and Andy Simmons (Michigan State) are a few off the top of my head. I do have high hopes for Biondo as he evolves into his upperclass years of college though!!

Michigan Arrogance

June 5th, 2009 at 6:19 PM ^

has a power base in the mid west... B10 and B12 have 15 of the top 20 programs in the nation. Iowa, ISU, OKST, Minn have been outstanding recently. the other 5 usually consist of a few eastern schools like Lehigh.

Cliff Keen

June 6th, 2009 at 10:13 AM ^

Actually, I'd have to disagree with the statement that Michigan is a strong high school wrestling state. The reality is that it is far behind the talent in Ohio, PA, Illinois, and Iowa in terms of depth. That, along with a $43,000 out-of-state tuition bill, kills UM in recruiting. Ohio State can offer a quality Ohio kid a partial and the kid only has to pay $5,000 a year. McFarland offers an Ohio kid a partial (because the 2nd tier depth isn't nearly as strong in Michigan) and it still costs over $20,000 a year.

You'll always have your studs like Metcalf who get a full ride. But it is the second tier kids who are on partials that can turn your program into a powerhouse. When your second tier kids in-state aren't as strong, it puts you at a distinct advantage from a recruiting standpoint.

Next could be a tough year. They are losing the anchors of the team - Luke and Todd - with only Russell back as a consistent performer. Some of the younger kids who were big time recruits coming out - Zeerip, Weber, and Boyd - need to develop and produce. Zeerip and Weber had disappointing rookie campaigns this year, and the talk on Boyd inside the program isn't so great. There is a lot of scholarship money tied up in those three. If they don't produce, UM will be behind the 8 ball.


June 6th, 2009 at 12:59 PM ^

Plus he will be at a much more manageable weight next year, and it would be dissapointing if Grajales doesn't place. I think that they do better in the B10 dual season than last year, but worse in tourneys.
Also, michigan is a very strong wrestling state, you can't go lower than top 5. In addition, MIs class of 2012 is ridiculously loaded. Massa is easily the top kid nationally, and his toughest competition comes from another michigan kid. Freddie Sanchez and alec mooridian both won state titles as a freshman. In closing, Michigan is consistently a top performer at senior nationals and on good years better than everyone but OH and PA.

Cliff Keen

June 6th, 2009 at 1:10 PM ^

Yes, he was a national qualifier but he finished 8th in the Big Ten and his freshman season was a disappointment as he went 7-15 after winning 23 matches in his RS season. He must develop significantly more offense on his feet. Perhaps not having to cut weight will help.

I don't question that there are studs in Michigan but the reality is that the depth of talent isn't there. You have only 9.9 scholarships. The 2nd tier kids on partials are key.

The Claw

June 6th, 2009 at 4:49 PM ^

If the Big 11 didn't get so many qualifiers, he wouldn't have made it. I guess I'm being to judgmental but for a guy who was undefeated in high school and got second at senior nationals or whatever, I was expecting a lot more. He got abused regularly. Let's hope the weight class shift will get him back on track.

The Claw

June 6th, 2009 at 4:33 PM ^

There's been some stats recently over the past few years on which state is best. they count the number of all-americans as the criteria. Michigan hasn't cracked the top 5 yet. It's been PA, OH, NJ, CA, and can't remember the 5th.

Michigan has its studs but not on a scale to match those states. And it seems if a Michigan team travels to OH for Beast Of The East, the studs don't do so well against the other studs from other states.

But I was nice to see 3 Davison prospects in the finals. To bad all 3 lost.


June 6th, 2009 at 12:00 PM ^

Does McFarland have any relationship with Coach Jordan at St.Paris Graham (OH)? By far and away they are the best program in Ohio and have rivaled Blair for the nations top spot the past few years. The name escapes me now but they had a 4x champ just follow Sanderson to PSU. To me it doesn't quite matter the size of the school talent is talent but another to watch in Ohio is Troy Christian they're starting to emerge as perennial powerhouse and have some good individual talent.

The Claw

June 6th, 2009 at 4:29 PM ^

Last year was the first year that you could say that Graham was the best in Ohio. St. Eds is and will continue to be a factory, and they're 9x out of 10 better than Graham. But I think it's apples and oranges. They're both now top 5 programs in the nation. St. Eds has been for years. Jordan has made Graham step it up in recent years. 2 tough as nails schools.

Cliff Keen

June 6th, 2009 at 1:03 PM ^

He does but I don't think Joe's relationship with Graham or the staff there is any stronger than any other staff's relationship. The reality is that Graham is a factory and Jeff Jordan doesn't show preference to any staff in the country. If he did, more kids would have gone to PSU the past few years as Matt Dernlan was on the PSU staff and Dernlan and Jordan are pretty close.

David Taylor is the 4Xer who followed Sanderson to PSU.

The disappointing fact is that the pipeline to Lakewood St. Edward has closed down. With Mike and Andy on the staff, that pipeline should have stayed intact. But it hasn't. After getting Andy, Mike, and Ryan Bertin, we haven't gotten a St. Ed's kid since Mark Moos. Perhaps that explains why it shut down.

I think small school kids are a risk unless they have excelled significantly on the national level because the depth of talent isn't there at the state level. Zeerip might turn out to be the classic example.

The Claw

June 6th, 2009 at 4:46 PM ^

It is very disappointing that we're not getting to many from these schools. Especially since michigan developed national champs out of these boys.

But I would be all over Monroeville in Ohio now. They have 4 studs in the waiting: Hunter Steiber, 119, Jr ranked #13 as a so. Logan Steiber, 125, Sr, ranked #1 as jr. Logan finished 3rd this year at the USA freestyle championships. Cam Tessari, 130, jr, ranked #9 as a so. Chris Phillips, 171, Jr, ranked #2 as a so.

I'd take any of them, especially Phillips since we'll need heavier weights. But I guess he's 3 years away yet.

Cliff Keen

June 7th, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

We never had a chance with the older Steiber. He has been a huge Ohio State fan since he was young. Joe put the time in early in the game but it just wasn't going to happen due to his early allegiances to tOSU. I'm not sure about Hunter but you can assume he will follow Logan.

There are rumblings we might have a chance with Phillips. But that just might mean that we are in the game at this point.

The Claw

June 7th, 2009 at 3:23 PM ^

But with OSU grabbing a lot of lighter weights ala Palmer and Tony Jameson, where will Logan fot in? He's the quality of wrestler that would probably get a full ride. Don't think OSU could offer that to him next year. But who knows. If he likes it that much and likes the competition, he can still go there and see where he falls out.

I'm an Ohio boy who lives in Ypsi. Been a diehard Michigan fan all my life though. Check out jjhuddle.com It's all ohio sports and have a blog for each sport. Wrestling's is huge. You have everyone from Dom DiSabito to Tommy Rowlands posting. Very informative and they talk recruiting a lot. It's a very informative site to see where people are leaning on going.

Carl Spackler

June 6th, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

I think it's going to interesting to see where they fit Grajales and Kellen. Grajales has been wrestling recently (Dapper Dan I think) at 141. He will also be 20 years old next season, meaning he may be filling out. So does Grajales cut down to 133 and wrestle Franklin Gomez and Reece Humphrey? Or does Kellen move up and wrestle Meltcalf? Either scenario is not pretty.

Cliff Keen

June 6th, 2009 at 4:34 PM ^

Humphrey will be at 141 next year. He was cutting a ton of weight the past two years but had to because of Jaggers.

I don't know where either Kellen and Grajales will end up. I know making 141 wasn't easy for Kellen this year but I don't see him at 149 either taking on Metcalf.

The Claw

June 7th, 2009 at 3:28 PM ^

We haven't seen Grajeles yet but I'd think he'd want to stay small for his first year. Unless Kellen decides to be offensive, he'll never win a championship. Metcalf would abuse him with his relentless push. I think if Humphrey moves up, he could beat Kellen as well. Humphrey seems to be more refined and put 2-3 moves together. Kellen hasn't done that yet. He has all the tools, he just needs to bump it up one notch and I could see him beating anyone. Maybe a very good Grajeles will make a difference in the practice room????

Carl Spackler

June 8th, 2009 at 12:37 AM ^

Metcalf would absolutely abuse him and I'm not a Kool-Aid drinking Metcalf fan. I also agree with you that Humphrey is real slick. I can't figure Kellen out. Anyone have any insight on why he can't put it all together? some people say he hasn't improved since Blair and that it's the room's fault i.e. coaching.

Cliff Keen

June 9th, 2009 at 6:37 PM ^

True...but most (including Steve and the staff) would agree that he was more offensive this year, and that was was one of the key reasons he was able to win a national title.

There is no doubt that being hard to score on is good and keeps you in the match. But you need to have an offensive attack when the match is on the line.

Elno Lewis

June 7th, 2009 at 11:27 AM ^

I loves this thread.

My wrestling iQ justjumped 100 points! Keep this stuff up peoples!

Now, if I could only get my real IQ to jump up.

Anyone going to the EMU open next fall?