EAST LANSING — Michigan State’s Jenison Fieldhouse was a spitting image of last week’s tournament, but of higher quality. The Michigan wrestling team entered more competitors and brought home more individual wins.

Of the 600 competing wrestlers, 25 were Wolverines. Nine were placewinners and four were individual champions: fifth-year seniors Kellen Russell and Justin Zeerip, redshirt sophomore Dan Yates and freshman Justin Dozier.

Although the tournament was non-scoring, the wrestlers and coaches treated it like every other competition. They worked the mat like they would in practice.

“The tournament doesn’t count for anything toward Michigan,” said redshirt freshman Max Huntley. “So it’s like coming into the room and doing practice matches with people who aren’t usually there.”

But they wanted to win. Every individual match would eventually lead to a greater cause.

“Everybody who’s tough just wants to win a national title,” said Huntley.

Freshman heavyweight Justin Dozier may be well on his way. He won for the second-straight meet and his tactics improved. In his 5-0 performance, Dozier pinned two of his opponents.

In the quarterfinals, Dozier faced Indianapolis sophomore Evan Wooding. In his neutral starting stance, Dozier seemed unintimidating. He was crouched low, with his hands in close to his body. But when he rose up for a takedown, Wooding grimaced.

The match ended in a 3-0 win for Dozier after he pinned Wooding in 5:13, barely making it into the third period.

As Dozier advanced to the finals, there was a feeling of déjà vu in the air. Identical to last weekend’s tournament, the surrounding mats were being rolled as spectators and competitors deserted the field house. Meanwhile, Dozier was fighting for the crown against Illinois freshman Chris Lopez.

At the end of the third period, the match was tied 1-1 and Dozier and Lopez went into overtime. Both kept retaliating until the second full tiebreaker ended in a 2-3 victory for Dozier in the ninth period.

But, what was Dozier concerned about after his win? Saturated in sweat, he went on a search for a free t-shirt. Champions deserve respect and authority, but more importantly free memorabilia.

As the nation’s top ranked 141-pound amateur wrestler, Russell seemingly had an advantage starting the tournament against Notre Dame College’s sophomore Marty Carlson. That was proven true after 5:27 when he ended the match with a pin.

Russell advanced through the semifinals without a single point scored against him in those three matches. In the final match, Russell went up against Central Michigan’s sophomore Scott Mattingly. He won 5-2 with a takedown, reversal, and 3:25 in riding-time advantage.

Russell’s 44th-straight win gave him Michigan’s second-longest winning streak of all-time, passing Otto Olson (2001-02). He is now four away from the leader, John Fisher (1988-89), at 47 consecutive wins.

Dan Yates, of the 165-pound weight class, took as may shots as he could fit into three periods. He pinned his first two opponents in the first period. He then racked up a 10-1 win in the semifinals and an 11-3 win for the title.

Michigan coach Joe McFarland saw potential and promise in Yates.

“Yates wrestled really consistent,” McFarland said. “He did a really great job of dominating throughout his matches today.”

To take the crown, 174-pound, redshirt senior Justin Zeerip wrestled against Northwestern’s red shirt freshman Lee Munster. He left Munster scoreless. Throughout the match he was able to stay on top, keeping the advantage through the last period at 6-0.

Zeerip won with his support system at his side. His whole family was at the edge of the mat during each match. But, they were not there solely for Justin—his brothers, Colin and Brandon, both compete on Michigan’s wrestling team.

By the end of the tournament Michigan had wrestled over 100 matches that ultimately determined the fate of the four champions.

Overall, coach McFarland was satisfied with his team, but he is a firm believer that there is always room for improvement.

“We has some guys that wrestled really well and we had some guys that I felt weren’t ready to wrestle early on,” McFarland said. “At a tournament like this, with the level of competition there will be some ups and downs. Overall we wrestled well, but we are capable of more.”

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