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Two-time NCAA wrestling champ Kellen Russell joins Michigan coaching staff

Kellen Russell as a University of Michigan wrestler
Kellen Russell as a University of Michigan wrestler
Photos courtesy of University of Michigan, used with permission

Kellen Russell, two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champ at the University of Michigan, will be returning to his alma mater as a volunteer coach, the Wolverines announced Friday.

A three-time NCAA All-American, Russell won back-to-back NCAA titles at 141 pounds in 2011 and 2012. He won his first national title as a junior with a 3-2 win over Cal Poly's Boris Novachkov, then followed up with a 6-4 sudden-victory decision over Iowa's Montell Marion at the 2012 NCAAs, becoming Michigan’s sixth wrestler to have won more than one NCAA title.

Russell also claimed four Big Ten titles at 141 pounds, becoming just the 11th four-time Big Ten champion in conference history and the first in Michigan history. He was named the Co-Most Outstanding Wrestler of the conference championships as a senior (2012) and Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2008.

The High Bridge, N.J. native claimed additional honors as a Wolverine wrestler. Russell was twice named Michigan's Male Athlete of the Year in 2011 and 2012. He completed his collegiate career with a 134-12 record, tying for eighth place on Michigan's all-time wins list. His career win percentage of .918 ranks second in program history. Off the mat, he twice earned Academic All-Big Ten and NWCA All-Academic honors.

Since his graduation, Russell has enjoyed a successful freestyle career, competing for the Ann Arbor-based Cliff Keen Wrestling Club. He captured the 66 kilos/145.5-pound title at the 2013 U.S. Open and claimed runner-up honors at the 2013 World Team Trials. Internationally, he has won medals at the Guelph Open (gold, 2013) and Cuba's Cerro Pelado Tournament (bronze, 2014). He is currently training for the 2016 Olympic Games.

"Kellen will be a great addition to our coaching staff," said Michigan head wrestling coach Joe McFarland. "As a student-athlete, he was incredibly driven and focused and a tremendous role model and leader in the program. I think he'll bring those same attributes as a coach. He loves Michigan wrestling, and he knows what it takes to be successful. I'm looking forward to him being a big contributor this year."

"I've been lucky enough to have had really good coaches throughout the years, from youth to high school to college," said Russell. "It's something I've always wanted to do and something I'm passionate about. I feel like I can add something from the standpoint of having confidence in yourself and knowing what it takes to be at the top -- what it takes to win Big Ten and national titles. I've been part of the wrestling family here at Michigan for a while; this feels like home, and I'm happy to start this new chapter here. We are definitely on the rise as a program, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to help out and see that through."