The Churella family carries a rich history at Michigan, and assistant wrestling coach Josh Churella continues to expand that storied legacy.
Coach Churella’s father, Mark Sr., wrestled for the Wolverines from 1976 through 1979, winning three NCAA titles and garnishing four All-American honors in that span.
Josh’s eldest brother, Mark Jr., secured a varsity letter for wrestling at Michigan in 2001. His other brother Ryan wrestled here from 2003 through 2006, adding three more All-American honors to the family’s collection.
With so many family connections, Churella had his sights set on the maize and blue as well.
“Deep down, I knew that this is where I wanted to be,” Churella said in an interview with The Daily.
However, the path to becoming a wrestler at Michigan was not guaranteed. Churella’s father held his boys out of wrestling until middle school and Churella threw himself into other sports, his parents not forcing him into it.
It was in seventh grade, when his dad took him to the 1998 NCAA wrestling championship in Cleveland, that Churella knew that he wanted to fully pursue the sport his father had excelled in.
“I remember it like it was just yesterday, going to that tournament and watching the magnitude of that tournament,” Churella said. “At that point, I was like, ‘I’m going to be on that stage. I’m doing this.’ ”
Churella seized that desire and devoted immense energy to his craft. He recalled his father laying the roadmap out for him and reminding him, “You don’t do anything to be mediocre.”
That attitude led to more than just early morning runs before school and late nights watching film, but also a spot on Michigan’s team. He came to Ann Arbor in 2005, becoming teammates with his best friend and older brother, Ryan, in the process.
“We held each other accountable and had the same goals,” Churella said. “We were always pushing each other.”
He followed in his brother’s footsteps in more ways than one. Josh’s daily drive and passion culminated in three All-American citations of his own from 2005 through 2008, along with a 124-21 record, which equated to 16th in Michigan’s all-time wins column.
After graduating, Churella continued his wrestling career professionally. He spent three years as a member of the American national team. He achieved two third-place finishes in the World Team Trials, and was the runner up in the 2010 U.S. Open, among other accolades.
As his wrestling career drew to a close at the end of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, Churella faced options for his next chapter, but his intentions were clear.
“My drive and my passion was wrestling, and I couldn’t think of switching gears,” Churella said. “I’m very fortunate I was able to stay at my alma mater.”
Churella joined the wrestling staff in 2013, and has been coaching here ever since. He’s always fired up at practice, and his love for wrestling has never ceased.
“It just excites me, the one-on-one aspect of the sport,” Churella said. “I thoroughly enjoy coaching every day.”
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