It is said that nobody is perfect.
But redshirt junior Kellen Russell’s wrestling record would suggest otherwise.
Russell, who recently completed a perfect regular season with 39-straight victories en route to a national championship in his weight class, isn’t like most top-ranked wrestlers. He doesn’t usually win by huge margins. He doesn’t rack up pins. But he just doesn’t lose.
Wrestling is unlike any other sport. When on the mats, just one mistake in one split second can instantly turn into a pin: match over. Everyone makes mistakes — including wrestlers — but not Russell, at least not in his last 39 competitions.
Michigan wrestling coach Joe McFarland often says Russell has a “quiet confidence” about him. His teammates, who say he tends to keep to himself, praise his focus and determination, neither of which cease after he walks off the mats.
“If you work hard in wrestling, it’s just going to carry over into working hard in the classroom,” Russell said. “It’s the same as if you slack off in the classroom, then you might start slacking off on the mats, too. So, I think it’s important that if you’re working hard at one, you’ve got to work hard at it all.”
A year from now, the High Bridge, New Jersey native will be set to graduate from the School of Kinesiology. And though he will leave Michigan, he doesn’t plan to leave collegiate wrestling. Russell wants to continue competitive wrestling and ultimately return to college as a wrestling coach.
But for now, the University is fortunate to have its national champion returning for one more season.
“I have another year, so I’ve got to start training for next year,” he said, trying to catch his breath after winning national title number one.
And with his work ethic, Russell is sure to be a contender in the championship next year.