As he scrambled on the mat in the first period of their 141-pound championship match, Minnesota’s Manuel Rivera caught Michigan freshman Kellen Russell’s foot with a quick single-leg shot.

A takedown seemed inevitable.

But once again, Russell was too slippery. He spun to counter the move and established position behind Rivera before wrapping both arms around the Golden Gopher’s torso to establish control and score the bout’s only takedown.

The sequence propelled Russell to a 3-2 victory and Michigan’s first individual conference championship by a true freshman since 1976. The Wolverines claimed third place Sunday at Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis.

The top-seeded Russell, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, came into the championship meet with a 26-5 season record.

“I think he had proved throughout the season that he was capable of (winning a Big Ten Championship),” Michigan coach Joe McFarland said. “He went out and set the pace in his matches and didn’t make too many mistakes.”

While Russell’s win is an early highlight in an extremely promising collegiate career, fifth-year senior captain Eric Tannenbaum closed his Big Ten career on a similar note.

The 165-pound championship match marked Tannenbaum’s third Big Ten finals appearances. He was victorious at 149 pounds as a redshirt freshman but lost to Iowa’s Mark Perry last year.

This year, Tannenbaum and Perry matched up again, but Tannenbaum was unfazed by the Hawkeye’s mobile technique in the rematch.

“Rather than worrying about trying not to get into scrambles, I just worked through them,” Tannenbaum said.

The strategy proved effective, as Tannenbaum caught Perry for a takedown late in the first period and eventually accumulated 2:20 of riding time. The match ended with the score knotted at two, but the time advantage gave Tannenbaum the victory.

Redshirt junior Steve Luke also faced a familiar opponent in Minnesota’s Gabriel Dretsch at 174 pounds. Luke had defeated Dretsch twice this season.

Luke wasted little time in continuing the trend, scoring two takedowns in the opening period of a 5-3 decision win to defend his title at 174 pounds.

The individual conference championships will certainly make for nice hardware in Michigan’s trophy case, but all three winners and McFarland were quick to stress that this weekend was about qualifying for NCAA Championships.

“I’m looking towards a National Title, hopefully,” said Tannenbaum. “The Big Ten Title is something I’ve already done before, but a National Championship in college is something I haven’t experienced, so that remains the goal.”

In addition to Michigan’s three champions, redshirt senior captain Josh Churella, redshirt senior Jeff Marsh, and redshirt junior captain Tyrel Todd placed in the top five of their respective weight classes to qualify for NCAA Championships in St. Louis in two weeks.

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