He’s one of the only wrestlers still in the weight room, but that doesn’t matter to him.

Michigan Wrestling
Senior co-captain Ryan Bertin is looking to daefend his 157-pound NCAA title.
(Tony Ding/Daily)

He yells loudly as he struggles through repetition after repetition on the abdominal machine. A casual bystander would think he had hurt himself.

But after a brief break, he gets right back on the machine and struggles through another set of exercises.

After finishing his set, he notices that another teammate is struggling with his own exercises. He goes over and lends a hand.

Senior co-captain Ryan Bertin knows what it takes to achieve the ultimate prize for a collegiate wrestler because he’s done it before. But he is not going to forget the rest of his team in the process.

In 2003, Bertin captured the NCAA Championship in the 157-pound weight class. Last year, he suffered some setbacks and lost in the semi final round of the national tournament. But in 2005, he’s right back in contention again.

“Last year, when the (NCAA) tournament came around, I wasn’t quite as healthy as I wanted to be,” Bertin said. “In the semi-finals, I got in a real tough match against a real tough kid, and we got in a scramble situation, and he won the scramble.”

This year is a different story for Bertin. He is completely healthy and has compiled a 22-0 record. After his win over two-time All-American Alex Tirapelle of Illinois, Bertin is now ranked No. 1 by Intermat in the 157-pound weight class. The pressure of these accolades has not fazed Bertin.

“To this point, I’ve been really focusing on going out onto the mat and wrestling hard,” Bertin said. “My goal is to get better every week regardless of the result of the match.

“This year I’ve been able to use my athleticism a lot more. The sport is so much easier for me when I’m healthy. You don’t have to worry about being hurt, and your body works the way you want it to.”

Bertin’s past experiences winning and losing at the NCAA Championships is paying dividends this season. He’s been able to use some mistakes from previous seasons to improve his training for this season.

“You get smarter as you get older,” Bertin said. “When I’m in the (weight room) I work hard, but, when I’m not, I make sure to get the proper rest and to eat the right foods. I’ve matured a lot over my five years (at Michigan), and I know what it takes to get to the top.”

Although he has his sights set on specific individual goals this season, Bertin knows he cannot forget his duties as a captain and leader of the team.

“He brings great leadership to the table,” co-captain Ryan Churella said. “Every day he sets the standard for everyone else, and he shows what it takes to be a champion. He’s a three-time All-American and a former national champion, so obviously he’s doing the right things.”

Bertin’s ability to lead by example has really helped the wrestlers around his weight class. Because Bertin is able to be practice partners with those around his size, his work habits rub off on them. Josh Churella, Eric Tannenbaum and Ryan Churella are all ranked in the top-five in the 141-, 149- and 165-pound weight classes, respectively.

“I’ve never been the most vocal guy,” Bertin said. “I just come into the wrestling room and put in the time I know you need do in order to be successful. I feel a lot of the guys look up to that.”

Bertin’s quest for a second national championship is not without its road blocks. Amateur Wrestling News currently ranks Matt Gentry of Stanford No. 1, and Tirapelle is still a threat.

Bertin and the Wolverines will look to continue their winning ways this weekend when they visit Michigan State on Friday and host Purdue on Sunday.

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