Junior wrestler Omar Maktabi – Iowa’s 2003 high school freestyle champion – will be in Cliff Keen’s practice room every day, without fail. But if he were to miss a practice, one of his reasons would likely involve Michigan sophomore Tyrel Todd.
“If there’s a reason I don’t want to come to practice, it’s because I just don’t feel like wrestling him,” Maktabi joked, referring to the starting 184-pounder’s aggressive style on the mat.
“Tyrel’s one of the most intense wrestlers I’ve ever wrestled. He uses so much hand-fighting, beating on the head – “
Todd is currently undefeated in dual matches and is ranked 19th in the nation. Most recently, he dominated David Helfich of No. 11 Lehigh and defeated Dan Miracola when No. 5 Michigan fought for a comeback win over No. 10 Cornell.
“The (most fun) for me is feeling a guy break (during a match),” Todd said. “Just beating him up.”
Todd says his incredibly physical style of grappling is something he’s developed since coming to Michigan. During his high school days in Montana, he was quicker than most of his opponents. With the increased level of competition that college brings, part of Todd’s style now depends on “really wearing out my opponent – tearin’ ’em out so they get so tired they can’t do anything,” he said.
Michigan coach Joe McFarland also describes Todd as very physical and hard-nosed.
“He likes to get out and brawl,” McFarland said. “He (applies) a lot of forward pressure, and he can wear a lot of guys down.”
McFarland noted Todd’s most recent outings against Lehigh, Hofstra and Cornell as indicators of how far Todd has progressed in his antagonistic style as well as in confidence.
For someone who’s known for being tenacious on the mats, Todd is surprisingly gracious and affable in person. He is polite, articulate and laughs generously.
“He’s a nice person off the mat,” Maktabi said. “A good guy all around.”
McFarland said he is good friends with Todd’s high school coach and had been hearing about “that Tyrel Todd” for quite some time before Todd ultimately chose to wrestle for Michigan. Todd has been wrestling since the age five under his father Jeff, who was a former grappler at Montana State.
“With wrestling, the more you put into it, the more you get (back),” McFarland said. “Tyrel has a great work ethic and good character, and he’s a great competitor. He’s not afraid of hard work – he grew up on a farm.”
Redshirting last year, Todd did not actually compete during the regular season, something he said was frustrating. However, he reasons that the extra year was necessary for his body to mature, as well as his technique. The work paid off, even during the summer – Todd won University Nationals for his weight class and made it to the Junior World Championships team trials.
McFarland places emphasis on such dedication.
“He fits in well in our program,” he said. “Tyrel epitomizes the kind of student-athlete that fits (our) mold.”
Todd said he chose Michigan for its combination of strong academics and celebrated athletics. But it’s athletic competition where he will most likely make a lasting mark.
“He’s doing all the right things,” McFarland said. “He’s putting himself in position to be a national champion.”
Todd hopes to achieve that goal at least once in his remaining years here. Reflecting his mantra of toughness and hard work, Todd said, “If I keep working hard, good things will happen.”
More good things might be as soon as this weekend. The wrestling team travels to Cedar Falls, Iowa for the Cliff Keen/NWCA National Duels. The championship pits the top 16 teams in the country against each other.