Five years, 141 matches and an undefeated senior season culminated in one final feat Saturday in St. Louis for Michigan wrestler Steve Luke.

At the NCAA Championships, Luke (174 pounds) proved deserving of the No. 1 ranking he held all year by beating Central Michigan’s seventh-ranked Mike Miller 8-4 in his last collegiate match. The win gave Michigan its first individual wrestling national championship since 2005.

The victory also avenged the loss he suffered in the national finals a year ago.

“Last year, I was really nervous,” Luke said. “I don’t think I was mentally prepared going into the match, while this year, I think I had a lot more confidence. I felt really good when I was running out to the mat.”

But Luke’s championship almost didn’t happen. His semifinal match with No. 5 Missouri senior Raymond Jordan went into overtime.

Jordan had a chance to score, grabbing hold of one of Luke’s legs. But Luke kept Jordan from getting into a better position to score and eventually, the referee called a stalemate.

“There is nobody I would rather put into an overtime match than Steve Luke,” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “He has great positioning. He is extremely hard to score on, you can’t get to his legs and when you do, it is very difficult to score on him.”

Luke’s championship match opponent was familiar. He and Miller grew up in nearby towns in Ohio and matched up earlier in the year, with Luke winning, 10-4.

“My style matches up well with him,” Luke said. “He’s a pretty strong kid and he would win matches by just pushing the pace, but a lot of times, he stands flat-footed. When I wrestle people who are flat-footed, I am usually able to get in on their legs and score and that’s what happened both times I wrestled him this year.”

With his performance, Luke gained his third career All-American honor. His co-captain fifth-year senior Tyrel Todd (197 pounds) also earned his third honor, while sophomore Kellen Russell (141 pounds) earned his first. The three performances helped Michigan to an 11th-place team finish. Big Ten rival Iowa took the overall team championship

Fourth-seeded Todd, who came back from a torn ACL earlier in the year, advanced to the semifinals and matched up with the No. 1 seed, Craig Brester of Nebraska. Todd scored an early takedown but was not able to keep the pace after hyper-extending his elbow, falling 7-2.

“He struggled a little with that elbow the rest of the bout, and I think it had a bearing on the outcome,” McFarland said. “But I was real proud of him, how he was able to come back … and be an All-American for a third time, that is pretty impressive.”

Todd was defeated in the third-place match to finish fourth.

Russell, the No. 1 seed in his class, was one of many victims of upsets in his weight class. After leading his second-round match for most of the bout, he was pinned by Illinois’ Ryan Prater.

Despite the loss, Russell recovered to win five straight consolation matches to finish seventh — the highest he could place after losing so early.

“He got caught in a defensive tilt,” McFarland said. “He got caught and pinned and those things happen sometimes. It was sort of a shocker for all of us. I liked the way he was able to come back and earn All-American status. This will be a building block for Kellen.”

Although Russell is well on his way to earning more than one All-American honor, he can’t fill the void of the departing seniors alone.

Leaving with the seniors are more than 200 combined wins, six All-American honors and one individual national championship. The question of who fills that hole won’t be answered until next November.

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