Usually, blood and wrestling don’t mix. If blood gets on the mat during a meet, the match is stopped and the mess is cleaned up.

But for the Michigan wrestling team this season, it’s been the blood that has been sweeping opponents off the floor.

No need to worry about safety, though this blood isn’t red. In fact, one might think junior Josh Churella’s blood is maize and blue, considering he’s the fourth member of his family to wrestle for the Wolverines.

This season, the Northville native has risen to the nation’s No. 2 ranking in the 149-pound weight class (as of Feb. 6), accumulating a 22-3 record thus far.

“Growing up, wrestling was always there,” said Churella, whose father and two brothers wrestled at Michigan. “It was always something we had in our blood.”

Only Minnesota’s Dustin Schlatter lies in his path to the nation’s top spot in his weight class. Schlatter narrowly beat Churella 2-1 in January in a match that came down to Schlatter’s riding time advantage.

Without his brother Ryan as a teammate for his first time at Michigan, Churella has stepped up as a team captain, racking up 32 dual-meet points, including three falls, one technical fall and five major decisions. And while natural wrestling talent is certainly something he relies upon, Churella’s fierce intensity separates him most on the mat, whether it’s at a practice or a dual meet.

“(His success) just goes back to his preparation,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “I think just the way he approaches his practice, he really has a deep desire to be a national champion, and that’s what drives him every day.”

The drive to win is always present in Churella. In a recent loss, Churella stormed off the mat angry that he couldn’t contribute to the team’s upset victory over Ohio State.

“I don’t like to lose, period,” Churella said. “Some people, they lose, and they kind of shake it off. But I’m never going to be in a good mood if I lose, because I’m striving to be the best.”

It is this attitude — not family pressure — that has driven the redshirt junior to the top.

Despite his family’s involvement in wrestling, he didn’t begin the sport himself until the seventh grade.

“(My father) just didn’t believe in starting (me) real early because it’s really common for college wrestlers to start early when they’re five years old and stuff like that,” Churella said. “But he just didn’t believe in it. He thought it’d burn you out and that he could teach all the necessities to wrestling if he started late.”

With his inner fire burning strong, Churella is quickly approaching the century win mark for his career (88). The milestone would place him among the school’s elite wrestlers and alongside his father (132 wins) and brother Ryan (117 wins).

But the All-American is more focused on the goal he’s had since middle school which is now within reach – an NCAA Championship.

“If he stays focused on what he wants to get done this year, and then taking it one match at a time at the nationals, I don’t see him having any problems,” McFarland said.

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