The Wolverine

February 2020*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 68 of 75

FEBRUARY 2020 THE WOLVERINE 69   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Russell hopes that isn't the only record-setting event he's on the side- lines for — he set plenty of program standards in a singlet and now wants to be watching from the bench in a suit when others do the same. "I want these guys to," he said of others matching or exceeding his marks. "It's rough when you get beat in practice, but I'm actually happy when it does happen now. That means I'm doing a good job [as a coach] if I'm wrestling and a guy takes me down. "If you have an ego as a coach, it can be tough to put that aside. But I want those guys to beat me up because if they can beat me up, they can beat up 99 percent of the guys they're going to wrestle." Russell always seemed destined to become a coach. His father, Ed, was a longtime gym teacher and coach, lead- ing a team every season — cross coun- try, wrestling, and track and field. When it was time for his coaching career to begin, Russell even aban- doned his own ambitions as a com- petitor. The 2013 U.S. Open champion and World Team Trials runner-up at 66 ki- lograms (145.5 pounds) knew that to find the success he craved as a coach, he had to be all in. He had won med- als competing at international tour- naments, but turned his attention to- wards helping others climb podiums. "You've got to be a little selfish when you're training," he said. "Just for me, I felt comfortable retiring and putting all my time and effort into these guys and helping them accomplish their goals. "I loved training and competing, but at the end of the day, I was more in- vested in those guys. I wanted those guys to succeed even more than I wanted to, and that was when I knew it was time to transition into the next phase and help these guys full-time, be completely selfless." Russell has arguably been as suc- cessful a coach as he was a competitor. He officially started as U-M's vol- unteer assistant in 2014-15. After four years in the role, he was promoted to a full-time assistant coach. Russell has played an integral part in Michigan's 19 All-America citations over the last five seasons (out of a pos- sible 50 weight classes during that time period), and helped develop All- Americans Rossi Bruno, Brian Mur- phy, Alec Pantaleo, Stevan Micic and Logan Massa, among others. But Russell won't admit satisfaction with his two NCAA titles as a competi- tor, and is still always looking for more as a coach. "I love it," he said of coaching. "It's one of those things that doesn't really feel like a job. I get to work with Sean, Josh and Dave [Bolyard, the other as- sistant coach]. They're some of my best friends. We're in here working, trying to get the program to the next level. And I still get to wrestle every day, so I can't complain." The next step for Michigan wres- tling involves not only producing its second four-time Big Ten champion and multiple-time national champion, but winning a team title at the NCAA Championships. "We have never won a team NCAA championship, there are only a few teams that have," he explained. "That's our goal right now. We're coming up on our 100th team in 2021, so we're shooting for that. It would be pretty incredible if we could win an NCAA title in the 100th year of the program." Nobody knows better than Russell that somebody has to be first, and he's doing everything he can to be involved when it happens. ❏ Michigan Accomplishments: Four- time Big Ten wrestling champion, U- M's first … Three-time All-American, winning 141-pound NCAA titles as a redshirt junior and senior … Won 71 of the 72 matches he competed in during his final two years … Second in all-time win percentage (.918) … Two-time Michigan Male Athlete of the Year (2011, '12). Professional Accomplishments: Successfully wrestled internation- ally for Cliff Keen Wrestling Club after graduation but quickly transitioned into coaching … Now in his second year as a full-time assistant, but served as the Wolverines' volunteer assistant for the four prior seasons … In his first five years on staff, U-M has produced 19 All-Americans and posted four straight top-10 NCAA finishes. Michigan Memory: "It's actually pretty recent. It was two years ago when we beat Iowa in Iowa City [Rus- sell was then a volunteer assistant coach]. It was a really close match, and our 197-pounder at the time, Kevin Beazley, was a transfer in and he came up with a big win [upsetting the na- tion's No. 5-ranked wrestler when he was listed No. 14] to seal the deal for us in that dual. "It was a whole team effort and everybody was going crazy on the bench. We were in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a historic arena, and able to beat them when a lot of people thought we weren't." Education: Earned a bachelor's de- gree in physical education and health from Michigan in 2012. Family: Single. The Kellen Russell File Russell is in his sixth season on the U-M wrestling staff, where he has served since retiring from his competitive international wrestling career. His first four seasons were spent as the team's volunteer assistant before becoming a full-time assistant coach. PHOTO BY SCOTT GALVIN

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - February 2020*