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After years of knocking on the door, Grajales working to become a champion

Adam Glanzman/Daily
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By Max Cohen, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 23, 2013

Michigan 149-pound redshirt junior Eric Grajales has been knocking on the door for two years.

With consecutive top-three finishes in the Big Ten Championships and in the round of 12 in the NCAA Championships — just a round away from the hallowed status of All-American — Grajales has been on the doorstep of being a champion for his entire wrestling career for the Wolverines. Ranked No. 11 nationally in his weight class, he knows it’s time to break through.

“You feel the pressure to do what you want to do in the amount of time that you have,” Grajales said.

Luckily for Grajales, pressure seems to be just another word in his vocabulary. In Big Ten dual-meet action so far this season, Grajales is 3-0, stepping up for Michigan whenever he has stepped onto the mat. Grajales has taken his performance up another notch since the Big Ten dual-meet season started after a few losses in the non-conference schedule.

“At Midlands, he didn’t wrestle quite to the level that he thought he was able to,” said Michigan assistant coach Donny Pritzlaff. “Taking that as a positive, he pushed hard to get ready for the Nebraska dual and he did a really good job.”

Against the Cornhuskers, Grajales defeated then eighth-ranked Jake Sueflohn in a tightly contested match. Despite being down on the scoreboard for the majority of the match, Grajales used a third-period takedown to take the lead which he held for a 3-2 decision. Since that matchup, Grajales has thrived, creating the momentum that earned him major decisions over his opponents in dual meets against Wisconsin and Iowa.

Seeding in the Big Ten Championships is based directly off performance throughout the Big Ten dual-meet portion of the schedule, so Grajales knows what he has to do to achieve his goals.

“If I can go through the rest of the dual-meet season undefeated, that would be huge for my seeding at the Big Tens,” Grajales said. “It would be even bigger for my confidence going into the tournament, so then I’ll be capable of winning it.”

Looking ahead, Grajales’ chances at accomplishing an undefeated Big Ten dual-meet season remain possible. In the remaining five conference dual meets, Grajales will likely face two wrestlers currently ranked in the InterMat Top 20, both of whom are ranked lower than him — Ohio State sophomore Cam Tessari and Michigan State senior Dan Osterman.

Grajales’s expectation of winning all of his Big Ten matches comes as little surprise based off of his performances this season. He has been a steady hand in the Wolverines’ lineup, providing experience on a team with a perpetually fluctuating lineup due to youth and injuries.

“He’s been through the Big Ten season two years and as a redshirt he saw it,” Pritzlaff said. “The experience helps, he’s been in a lot of tough matches. I think that’s something he can fall back on.”

With Grajales’s sights set on being a champion and an All-American, the pressure will only increase as his goals become within reach. This year, Grajales hopes the pressure will be enough to open the door to a championship.

“I’ve always been the type of person that enjoys having pressure on me, being able to shine in front of a crowd,” Grajales said.