Michigan Wrestling

Submitted by AceUofMer on January 31st, 2011 at 7:10 PM

Hey guys,

I saw Brian mention he found this last weekends dual against Ohio State on the BTN entertaining, which, as a former wrestler and fan, I found encouraging.

College Wrestling is a dying sport in some areas (west coast), but, in Michigan, we are fortunate to have some support.  U of M, in specific, could be a much bigger program on the rise.  They recently opened the Bahna Wrestling Center for training, which is head and shoulders above most wrestling facilities.  They are very appealing to recruits with having top notch facilities, great coaches, compete in by far the toughest conference in wrestling and can walk away with one of the best degrees out there. (There is no pro career, so this is big)

The biggest step left is fanbase driven.  Iowa is the Gold standard in this department.  Few realize Carver Hawkeye Area was actually built for wrestling.  Its an increadible atmosphere  for nearly every dual as they usually outsell any basketball event.  I've seen Michigan come close when in good years, a premium oppenent and scheduling working out that they get Crisler Arena.  However, a typical dual at cliff keen arena can lack some luster.  I've had the honor to officiate there and can say, my high school meets were more intimidating.  It is fun and on some occations can be extremely exciting as the sport, especially at the college level.  Even a blowout team score can be met with some tense nailbiting situations on an individual match.  Few sports can say that. 

I hope Michigan can eventually take this step and grow the fan base.  They are building a very good team that is having success this year with a very young team (Somewhere Rich Rodriguez is saying "impossible")  They underacheived two years ago, which saw a brief Ohio State surge in the Big Ten and reached a low last year, sacrificing the season, as key weights redshirted and efforts were turned towards the future. (Back with us Rich? your welcome)  Now they've planted themselves as players in the conference and nationally. 

The next 4 meets will see the #12 Wolverines face

#4 @ Wisconsin, #1 Penn State (probably lossing the top ranking after falling to Iowa), #6 Minnesota and then @ #11 Iowa (probably going up after beating the #1 team)

Should be fun, So I thought I'd share some about this team to watch in hopes to attract some more MGoers.

This is a team getting better as the season goes on and are starting to find what they've got.  example: lost to #13 Lehigh 25-6 in Nov. this season, then won the rematch earlier this month 21-18.  Lehigh is since improved their  to #7. 

They are led by #1 ranked Kellen Russel at 141 from Blair Acadamy in NJ (always a top high school program that UofM has built a good pipeline to)  He's nothing flashy and won't look like the top guy in the country, but, he wins.  He has already beat most of his top contenders. 

Anthony Biondo is a senior capt. at 197.  Ranked 11th, another not flashy guy that they could us to step up his game some more. 

Hwt Ben Apland is currently ranked 8th and having a good heavyweight is huge.  I've always looked at having a good Hwt as having a good Kicker (no, I don't think he's the answer at kicker, though, could he have been worse?)  But, the Hwt class is usually has the biggest difference between the best and the worse.  Having a solid option there opens the door to possible big team points.  It can be tough to watch this group, but, Apland can make it even harder.  If you watched the OSU dual, you probably can pick up on it.  He does a lot of things the difficult way.  Big asset though.

The Middle weights Michigan plays around with to match up.  The Zeerip Brothers can be found here as solid contributers.  Brandon has made his debute this year and has made a run up the rankings since at #19.  Dan Yates and Aaron Haynes are in the mix with the middle weights as well as Hunter Collins who is at 184.  The book on all these guys is that you could have a lot.  All these guys are capable of wrestling with anyone and this is the group that will win or lose a meet.  You can sometimes go a long way predicting matches on paper.  You can usually find those key swing matches.  These names will almost always be on that list.

Another spot like those middle weights is at 125.  Sean Boyle (Blair kid) very solid lightweight capable of a lot, but, will almost always give you a tough match.  Michigan has lacked at this weight in the past years, so, Boyle is a breath of fresh air. 

133 Zac Stevens I think is starting to wrestle at a high level for him.  He's at the least solid, but, I think he could be a big part of this team.

Now for a fun one after boring you with the unflashy leaders of the team.  Freshman Eric Grajales.  One of the top recruits that came to Michigan.  He came in as an option at 133.  Quickly grew out of that and started to look like a more natural 141er.  Only problem is Michigan's 141 is occupied by the #1 kid in the nation.  So he's bumped to 149.  This is tough to do in College wrestling, but, this kid is managing just fine.  Extremely fun to watch, very good and all up a weight as a freshmen.  Impressive and a huge asset now and for the future. 

All in all this Michigan team is at its least good and could be real good.  The next few duals are going to be tough.  They've loss to Penn State already and don't match up well with them, but, there are spots in there that they could have limited the damage and can turn the tide enough to make it happen.  The Wisconsin matchup is tight at about everyweight except a couple that Wisconsin looks very strong at.  If they can pick up enough swing matches, they can make that advantage moot.  Minnesota is another match with a lot of swing matches, but, both sides have some strength spots. couple top matchups there with #1 Russel of Mich. taking on #2 and #8 Apland taking on #9.

I've been up and down the Iowa dual and the Strengths cancel out enough to make it a game of swing matches.  Could be a very fun one.

The Penn State dual is a Maize out.  The Minnesota and Iowa matches will be on the BTN.  Hopfully you watch, we win and the program grows. Its a great sport.






January 31st, 2011 at 7:28 PM ^

.......UofM's wrestling team. As a former wrestler who got some attention from Michigan my senior year, I look for news of the program and how they are faring in the B10. Two guys I wrestled in high school, Joey Gilbert and Sean Bormet, both had very good careers at UofM in wrestling, and I was glad to see them go there rather than Iowa.

Again, thanks for the writeup.


January 31st, 2011 at 8:02 PM ^

Wish I could have been a part of that era in UM wrestling, but unfortunately for me, a severe dislocated elbow took me out of consideration for a UM offer my senior year. I wrestled Sean B. still injured at the Illinois state freestyle championship and did ok. Both him and Joey were considered two of the tougher Illinois wrestlers at the time. 


January 31st, 2011 at 7:46 PM ^

They should be ashamed after starting montrell Marion against penn state. Three strikes against him, he's 'permanently' kicked off the team and then they let him back on the team and start him first match. I am dumbfounded by this. Brands would sell his soul for a win. Damn I hate Iowa wrestling like I hate osu football. I will get off my soap box now, anyone have a ladder?


January 31st, 2011 at 9:34 PM ^

Can't speak to if they would move forward like that just to win.  But, I don't know.  My guess would be there is more to it, but, I don't care for Brands and his assistants.  I think its great to see them apart of the iowa program, but, I think they need to draw a line on what type of image they put out during meets.  There is a difference between people just knowing who you are and making sure they do.


January 31st, 2011 at 8:10 PM ^

I am one of the coaches for our kids club down in Bedford. We are coming up for a field trip for the Minnesota match that will be on the Big 10 Network. Hope to have at least 50 or more. Lets pack the house! This is a young up and coming team, should be fun to watch. #1 Kellen Russell will be wrestling the #2 rated guy that night (not sure of the name) big feature match. Go Blue!


January 31st, 2011 at 8:14 PM ^

Agreed, thanks very much for the informative post.  I went to high school in Iowa and wrestling is huge there, so I have grown to appreciate it.  Obviously I'm at Michigan and support the boys always, but I must admit I have a certain fondness for Hawkeye wrestling.  Hoping Michigan crushes them in the future.  Keep the information going, and Go Blue.

Wolverine Convert

January 31st, 2011 at 8:16 PM ^

Wrestlers work as hard as any sport without the chance to get to the "The League" or "The Association". Also, because of scholarship limitations many wrestlers only receive partial scholarships or none at all.

Great to see the guys who represent the Maize and Blue are doing well and the future looks bright.

Go Blue!


January 31st, 2011 at 9:38 PM ^

Thanks everyone.  I would gladly post more about the wrestling team if wanted.  Or even answer any questions some may have.  I know it may come across comlicated to newcomers at first, but, its a very simple and exciting sport that can make for an exciting event.

Do me a favor and drive to battle creek for the TEAM state finals.  You will come away a fan without a doubt.


January 31st, 2011 at 10:33 PM ^

Been there 4 times and come away succesful 2 of them. Noone can tell me that its not the loudest finals in the state. Where else can you watch all 4 divisions go at it simultaneously?

Plus, you get to see a lot of big time recruits before they head to college. I don't think michigan has any commitments from this class yet, but they did land one of the big fish from 2012, Jordan Thomas. 2012 is a MONSTER class in michigan, the number one recruit in the country, Taylor Massa, is from st. Johns, Freddie Rodriguez from holt looks to be top ten, and Thomas is top 20. Rogriguez is already committed to MSU, and I have zero real knowledge of Massas college preference, but do know that he goes to high school like 20 minutes away from east lansing...


January 31st, 2011 at 11:16 PM ^

Michigan's last class filled in good depth but, nothing as spectacular as their previous to that, which was great.  So 2012 is an important class.

Massa is from St. Johns.  Don't know what he's thinking, but, St. Johns is far enough away from East Lansing.  CMU may be more appealing. Kid is very impressive. 

One of the gems of Team states is the mixture of very good wrestlers with role players.  A title can come down to a weaker link of the team having to just stay off his back.


February 1st, 2011 at 12:21 AM ^

we're gonna need to polish up our state rings for battle creek this year when our school goes for a 5th state championship in the past 12 years. (sorry, had to brag a little)

On Massa though...The head coach of the high school where me and tricks are from has said that the MSU coaches think Massa is definately not going to be a Spartan. I'm guessing he leaves the state.


January 31st, 2011 at 11:14 PM ^

Great post. I used to love going to dual matches. A few good friends and I all wrestled in high school and really got into following M wrestling. There were some really good guys when I was there (Catrabone, Warren). We even made the trip down to Cleveland one year when they were hosting the NCAA's--that was a great trip. I think those years the team got a little extra attention because of the passing of Jeff Reese but Keen had some decent crowds in those days and the energy was really good. Those guys work really hard and deserve the support.


February 1st, 2011 at 7:09 AM ^

Please feel free to keep us up to date as the season progresses. I'm not say those of us that were interested throughout the read shouldn't keep up on their own, just that the rest of the board (read, those other lazy mofos ;) might enjoy an update from time to time. Would prolly help build general awareness, and ultimately some of that desired in-arena support.