To say that redshirt sophomore Kanen Storr has dealt with adversity over the past year would come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his situation. And during Sunday’s 32-7 win over Indiana (2-3 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) for the Michigan wrestling team (3-0, 1-0), the story was much the same, as No. 8 Storr battled through adverse conditions to gain a win over 15th-ranked Cole Weaver.
Storr came into the match on the heels of a rough week at practice. Though he typically bases his offense on quick feet movement and multiple leg attacks, Storr felt sluggish and knew he would have to get creative in order to win.
And that’s exactly what he did. Eventually winning, 3-1, Storr managed to get his hand raised without scoring a takedown, a rare sight for the transfer. Scoring on an escape and a crafty two-point near fall to start the second period, Storr secured the win for his team.
“It was a great performance as a team,” Storr said. “Individually, I wasn’t feeling too good. I kinda had a down week, but overall, I came out here, I gutted out a win. I didn’t feel my best, so there’s a lot to be proud of there but a lot to build off of also.”
Circumstances like these are nothing new for Storr. After all, Storr’s tenure with the Wolverines began due to tumultuous conditions at his first school of choice — Iowa State.
As a high school student and a Michigan wrestling standout, Storr always had his eyes set on Ames, Iowa and the Cyclone program headed by Kevin Jackson. From the get-go, Storr connected with Iowa State’s coaching staff on an emotional and professional level.
The relationship truly began when Storr traveled to Mexico with USA Wrestling and Jackson to compete in the Pan American Games. Since that moment, Storr was sold on the Cyclones’ culture and nothing was going to stop him from committing, not even a strong recruiting effort from his hometown Wolverines.
“They really introduced me to my faith, they had a philosophy of wrestling that I just fell in love with, and he had everything I was looking for,” Storr said. “And Michigan did too, that’s why it was really complicated. But then I just went with my gut and my initial thought of going there, so just had a really good connection with the assistant staff there.”
But then Iowa State started to lose. A lot. Midway through a blistering 1-12 season, the Cyclones announced they were going to scrap Jackson, and with him, the assistants that Storr had come to know and love.
Wanting to uphold the high standard of success Iowa State had come to embody, the Cyclones brought on then-Virginia Tech head coach Kevin Dresser. And although the program immediately started winning again, Storr felt out of place.
“I love Iowa State and the community and the fans there, but they brought in a new staff,” Storr said. “I got recruited by a different staff my freshman year. Last year they brought in a new staff. I was excited to give him a shot, chemistry just didn’t work out. They’re doing great things out in Ames, Iowa right now, so I mean, they’re a great staff, good coaches, but the chemistry wasn’t there for me.
“We didn’t connect on a personal level. I wasn’t getting (a positive atmosphere) at Iowa State.”
Storr asserts the opposite is true at Michigan. The Wolverines focus on improvement through positivity — an environment more conducive to Storr’s personality and, ergo, his success.
The first one to defend that sentiment is Michigan coach Sean Bormet, who has tried to make Storr’s transition as smooth as possible.
“I think our whole staff has a very positive philosophy, and I think, in general, kids feed off positivity,” Bormet said. “And I think kids feed off an environment where they’re empowered and encouraged to bring their absolute best every day and leave everything out on the mat every day. And that’s really how we approach our entire team and our roster, so I think Kanen’s been feeding off of that.”
The question has never been one of Storr’s wrestling ability. He won a ranked match without scoring a takedown, after all. Instead, it’s been one of comfort, and at Michigan, the shoe seems to fit.