Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009-10 Wolverine Wrestling: A Primer

I am aware that wrestling is sort of an oddball sport, so with that in mind, here is a breakdown of what the team will probably look like this year. Some of the spots will be more open than others, and the picture will become much clearer after the Nov. 1st Maize 'n Blue intersquad duels, where a few of the starting spots will be up for grabs.

125: Last year, this spot was all Micheal Watts, and he did a decent job at it. The Big Ten was ridiculously loaded here, so his record wasn't really reflective of his talents, but he was a solid wrestler, and its hard to replace a ranked senior and expect the spot to improve. Prime candidates for the job this year are either Bret Marsh or Sean Boyle. Marsh was a state champion from Dexter, MI, and redshirted last year as a freshman. Boyle is a freshman this year, and originally hailed from Lowell, MA, until he transfered to Blair Academy in NJ, probably the best wrestling school in the country, and if not, its no lower than 2nd. Boyle was a 2 time prep-national champ, and was Intermat's #32 recruit nationwise. I think Boyle has the edge hear, but I have seen neither wrestle live. Boyle definetly has the higher ceiling than Marsh, but the team is going to be giving ground against almost all B10 125 Lb'ers, so they might redshirt him and tell Marsh to stay off his back.

133: Mike Sears and Zac Stevens each saw time in this spot last year, and neither was especially good or bad. Personally I liked Stevens better because he seemed to have more of a chance to win some of the ugly matches than Sears did. None of that matters this year though, as Michigan pulled in Eric Grajales out of Brandon, FL. Grajales was either the # 1 or 2 recruit, depending on who you ask. Intermat had David Taylor, recently commited to PSU, ahead of him, but it was close everywhere. Grajales wrestled in Florida HS competition since 7th grade, and finished with an overall record of 292-6. The last match he lost was in 8th grade, when he took 2nd in the state, and since then he won over 200 straight matches and 4 Florida state titles. He even tried out for the Olympics in 2008, and is a 5 time greco-roman national champ. He will step in, be the starter, and will, in all likelyhood, be an All-American this year, in pretty difficult weight class.

141: Ah, the first returning starter, Kellen Russel. Russel will be a Jr this year, and has been excellent over the course of his career at Michigan. He has been ranked as high as #1 in the country at various times since his freshman year upset of J Jaggers, and has been consistently excellent. His best trait is he is one of, if not the best scrambler in the country. He's not particularly great at forcing offense, and it sometimes shows in his lack of bonus point decisions, but he is incredibly difficult to take down, and always seems to come out of a scramble in better position. Russel comes into this year ranked 3rd, and will have a shot at a national title.

149: This weight was a question mark last season, and it looks to be the same way this year. Mark Weber, a 4 time state champ came in last year, but Mark Beaudry, a 4 time placewinner, 1 time champ got the nod in all but the Cliff Keen Classic. I'm not sure if that burns Webers RS or not, but it won't matter much this season. Beaudry is older than Weber, but probably has a lower ceiling. It probably won't matter much who gets the nod, they are both about equal at this point, and even if one is better than the other it wasn't matter against the 3 buzzsaws at this weight in the B10.

157: Last year, this weight turned out to be surprisingly good for Michigan, as Aaron Hynes surprised everyone who had never seen him by qualifying for Nationals. Hynes is back this year, and I think he can continue to improve and really become one of Michigans better wrestlers. Hynes comes into this year ranked 18th by Intermat, but has a decision over 14 Kurt Kinser, and a 13-3 Major over 13 Colton Salazar. He's not an exciting wrestler, but he does 3 things very well, he has a great high crotch, he's tough to ride, and he is an absolute nightmare in the legs. I wouldn't be shocked if he advanced even further and was able to attain All-American status this year in a weight that's not as dangerous as others.

165: Another surprising national qualifier here, as Justin Zeerip managed to make his way to St. Louis. Zeerip looked Ok throughout the year, and managed to upset then 20th Dan Vallimont, but always looked a little too thin, and seemed to gas a little in really tough matches. It is my personal opinion that he was wrestling here because the team needed him to, and with holes opening up in the lineup, he should move up this year. It's not a knock against him, but sometimes you just can't perform like you are capable of at certain weights. I'm not entirely sure of his replacement, but I would bet it is his former teammate from high school, Dan Yates. Yates was a 3 time state champ out of Hesperia, MI, and will be a freshman this year. I'm hoping he can stay down enough to be able to wrestle here, as he wrestled 160 in high school and looked absolutly gigantic for a 160 pounder. Still, he was Intermats 12th overall recruit, and is as physically gifted as they come, and if he does step in, I expect him to make a run at qualifying for nationals.

174: Yeah...You may have heard of the guy who was here last year. Steve Luke, National Champion, 3 time All-American, 3 time Big Ten Champ. This is where I think Zeerip ends up, which would make it 2 times he has had to step into a lineup spot and replace an All-American, Eric Tannenbaum being the first. He should be up for the challenge though, as he can be physically dominant over most wrestlers he faces. Zeerip is a big threat to get bonus points, as he can force the action from neutral, and is explosive enough to put on some pinning combinations. Will he win Nationals? Probably not, but I think he'll be exciting to watch and give the team another weapon.

184: Last year this weight was occupied by Anthony Biondo, who moved down from 197 to allow Ty Todd to move up from here, more on that later. Biondo was able to make it to Nationals here, and tallied a victory over #13 Vince Jones of Nebraska. With 197 open again, it looks like Biondo will be moving back up, leaving this spot up for grabs. The man in the drivers seat for the starting gig is probably Hunter Collins, who was a 4 time California placewinner, and 1 time champ. California does not seperate wrestling into divisions based on school size, so that is a serious accomplishment. In addition, he competed well on the national level, taking 2nd at senior nationals and placing in many other tournaments. He should step in and be ok, although I have to qualify that by saying I have never seen him wrestle and have no idea.

197: Ty Todd, another incredibly decorated senior, wrestled here last year. 3 time All-American and 1 time B10 champ, he was one of the most entertaining wrestlers I've ever seen. He actaully moved up from 184, probably because he wanted a shot at winning a B10 or National title, something that, quite frankly, noone had last year, thanks to an unstoppable wrestling machine named Jake Herbert, who pinned or tech falled multiple time All-Americans last year. This year 197 goes back to Anthony Biondo, who comes in ranked 16th by intermat. Biondo should be one of the better wrestlers on the team this year, and have a shot at a B10 title in a rare B10 weight devoid of big stars.

HWY: This might just be me, but heavyweight just seems boring to me. Eddie Phillips is the starter here, and he was the starter last year, and he was pretty good. I saw him wrestle a few times, and the one thing I came away with is that heavyweights never do anything. I know they have to be careful not to get thrown, and I don't blame them for being hesitant to shoot on someone who weights 270 Lb's, I just can't get into watching it. Still, this weight class is wide open for the most part, Phillips probably won't beat the studs, but he'll knock someone off. The one good thing I can say for him is that he seems to stay out of dumb situations, and he doesn't let the other wrestler put him on his back or pile up points against him. Those are good traits for this weight class, as a lot of kids are pin or get pinned.

Keep in mind that a lot can change during an offseason, so its not a question of if I'm wrong, but what I'm wrong about. Obviously the guys who are returning national qualifiers will be starters, but some probably got Barwisized and moved up a weight, and I didn't take into account one highly recruited wrestler they had from 2 years ago who wasn't on the team because he was on a mission trip. I believe his name is Jake Salazar, and he'd fit in somewhere in the 65-84 range, assuming his mission is over and he wouldn't redshirt. I'll revisit this after the Nov. 1 Maize n Blue intersquad meet and it should be MUCH more accurate, like, 100%.

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