Kellen Russell says the No. 7 Michigan wrestling team has one thing on its mind each weekend: to dominate its opponents.
“We are looking to improve this weekend and continue on our path to dominating our opponents,” the fifth-year senior Russell said. “Hopefully every weekend from here on out we can continue to elevate our performances.”
The Wolverines made their presence known at last week’s Michigan State Open Invitational, where four wrestlers were crowned individual champions. Redshirt seniors Kellen Russell and Justin Zeerip, redshirt sophomore Dan Yates, and freshman Justin Dozier all claimed the titles for their respective weight classes.
“We had a really good weekend,” Russell said. “It was really good to see our guys fighting hard in every match.”
Michigan will look to continue their dominance this weekend as they start their dual-match season as it travels to Buffalo and Pittsburgh to take on the Bulls and the Panthers.
Russell, who ended last season with a perfect 38-0 record and a national title for the 141-pound weight class, has begun this season with a 5-0 record. Even though he has the second- longest streak of 43 consecutive wins, he is still looking to improve this season.
“There are some things I still need to work on,” Russell said. “I want to attack more on my feet and score more points against my opponents.”
Russell was Michigan coach Joe McFarland’s fourth wrestler so far to win an individual NCAA title in his 13 years of coaching at Michigan. He has also guided his team to three Big Ten championship titles. Looking to add another one to his resume this year, McFarland has added three new coaches to the staff: Sean Bormet, Donny Pritzlaff and Kyle Massey.
Bormet is a Michigan alum who was a two time NCAA All-American and Big Ten Conference Champion during his wrestling career (1991-94). He brings in international experience as he was a coach for the 2008 Olympics and the last three World Championships.
Pritzlaff adds to the international experience of the coaching staff. He won a bronze medal at the 2006 World Championship and has spent the last five years coaching at the University of Wisconsin, where he helped lead the team to a 4th place at the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Massey also comes from Wisconsin and will serve as the volunteer coach.
“The new coaches have added a whole new culture to the program,” Zeerip said. “They really pay attention to detail and elevate training to a whole new level.”
Added Russell: “The coaches are phenomenal. They are among the best in the country and have brought a whole new attitude to the team. They all really emphasize the importance of attacking.”
With the new additions to the coaching staff and a strong class of talent, the Wolverines will look to make a statement this year. Zeerip and Russell agree that they would like to help the program win a Big Ten championship team title and send as many team members as possible to the NCAA Tournament.
The next step is on the road this weekend against Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
“We plan to wrestle hard and dominate,” Zeerip said. “It’s gonna be a battle, but we are looking for two victories.”