Ordinarily, a wrestler who qualified for the NCAA Championships as a redshirt freshman and placed third as a sophomore would stay in his weight class rather than mess with success.

Michigan Wrestling
Junior Ryan Churella worked out all summer so that he could move up to the 165-pound weight class. (JASON COOPER/Daily)

But junior Ryan Churella has decided to go against conventional wisdom. This season, he will attempt to move up two weight classes and be as successful as in previous seasons. During the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, Churella wrestled in the 149-pound weight class, but this year he will make the jump to the 165-pound weight class.

“Last year I weighed about 170 (pounds) before the season, and cut down because I knew it would be better for the team,” Churella said. “I think I am going to compete better at (the 165-pound weight class) because it’s more of my natural weight class.”

Churella’s primary reason to move up two weight classes was his displeasure with the weight cutting he had to do in previous seasons.

“When you only have an hour after weigh-ins, its hard to wrestle well when you are cutting a lot of weight,” Churella said.

To get ready for the rigors of wrestling in a bigger weight class, Churella had to change his offseason training approach. He spent a lot of time in the weight room in order to get the proper strength necessary for competition with bigger wrestlers.

“Right after the season ended, I took a week off, and then just lifted all summer,” Churella said. “My brother and I lifted with this trainer all summer and it really helped.”

His lifting program focused on specific exercises that would ultimately help him once the season came around.

“I did a lot of core workouts, and improved my strength in a lot of exercises,” Churella said. “I did a lot of Olympic-style lifts, like bench press, squats and cleans. Sometimes I would do circuit workouts, so we would do our bench first and then add in other stuff. It was almost like getting a wrestling workout.”

Although Churella has altered his training techniques, he will not have to change his wrestling style to adapt to the new weight class.

“I’m not wrestling any differently,” Churella said. “Last year, in the middle of the season, I had a tendency to get a little sloppy because I was cutting so much weight, and I wasn’t focusing on my wrestling and technique. I had to think too much about keeping my weight down.”

The coaches have noticed all the hard work Churella has put in. Recently, he was named a co-captain alongside 2003 NCAA Champion Ryan Bertin.

“(Churella) has turned himself into a nice-sized 165-pounder,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “He’s much stronger this year and he’ll be able to be more physical in his matches.”

McFarland believes that Churella’s experience in the fast-paced 149-pound weight class will give him an advantage in his new class.

“(Churella) is going to find out that (wrestlers) in the 165-pound weight class are not as quick as him,” said McFarland. “They may be a little stronger, but Ryan has gotten his body to the point where that won’t make much of a difference.”

Churella’s first test in his new weight class comes today, as the Wolverines face perennial wrestling power Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa.

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