Cigarette smokers can take years to quit. People who bite their nails might never stop. And heading into this past weekend’s Journeyman/Brute Northeast Collegiate Duals, the No. 5 Michigan wrestling team wanted to end its own nasty habit – losing dual meets.

Brian Merlos
Senior Tyrel Todd and the Wolverines recorded more dual meet wins this weekend, one more than they had all last season. (JEREMY CHO/Daily)

And the Wolverines accomplished their mission. They went 3-1 over the weekend, defeating Bucknell 33-6, Bloomsburg 27-12 and Virginia 25-10. Michigan’s lone loss came at the hands of unranked Maryland, 18-16.

With the three dual-meet wins, the team has already surpassed last year’s two wins.

But in the surprising loss to the Terrapins, the pivotal match proved to be in the 184-pound weight class. Senior Tyrel Todd, ranked third in the nation in his weight class, was upset 4-1 by Maryland junior Josh Haines. Haines capitalized on a scramble in the third period to score a two-point takedown and take control of the contest.

Afterward, Michigan coach Joe McFarland took responsibility for his senior’s upset loss. This past weekend was Todd’s first action since being hospitalized with a staph infection two weeks ago.

“He’s still getting over that infection,” McFarland said. “I wasn’t planning on wrestling him in that dual, and at the last minute, I made the decision to put him in. I’m going to take the blame on that one. He just didn’t have enough juice in his body to perform like he wanted.”

But Todd was one of just a few Wolverines who left disappointed. A season ago, Michigan struggled with its depth. Besides veterans like seniors Josh Churella, Eric Tannenbaum, Steve Luke and Todd, the Wolverines lacked quality in most weight classes.

If this weekend was any indication, though, the future looks bright. Seven Michigan wrestlers finished the dual-meet tournament with at least two wins. Churella, Tannenbaum and Luke all finished the weekend with unblemished 4-0 records.

But two newcomers unexpectedly excelled for the Wolverines. Freshman Kellen Russell went undefeated in the 141-pound weight class and appears to be making a seamless transition to college wrestling.

Teammates said Russell’s experience in his high school program helped him develop into an impact performer quickly. Blair Academy, in New Jersey, is known as a prep school wrestling juggernaut.

“He’s had a lot of success in high school, so I think it’s helped with the transition confidence wise,” Churella said. “He’s very confident as a true freshman because he knows he wouldn’t be wrestling as a true freshman if he wasn’t good.”

Russell may be a fresh face, but another impressive performer over the weekend has already been at Michigan for four years.

A season ago, fifth-year senior Jeff Marsh struggled to a lackluster 10-11 record. But this weekend, Marsh compiled a 3-1 record in the 157-pound weight class. His only defeat came at the hands of No. 15 Matt Mosley of Bloomsburg on what McFarland called a “tough, fleeing-the-mat call.”

Marsh and the rest of the rejuvenated Wolverines will look to capitalize on their quick start this Friday when they head to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invitational, where they finished second last season.

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