Russell vs Simmons
It is not the main event, it is not the sub-main event, but the Kellen Russell-Andy Simmons matchup at this Sunday's Agon II-Homefront could have as much interest to the fans and specatators as any match.
This is the kind of matchup that Michigan wrestling fans have probably already played out in their minds while sitting around their living room or during long drives to wrestling tournaments discussing "dream matchups".
Those conversations usually start with "if they wrestled in their primes, then....".
In their primes, Andy Simmons and Kellen Russell were extremely similiar.
Simmons was a juggernaut high school recruit out of Williamston, Michigan - 4x undefeated State Champ, 4x Fargo All-American, Asics All-American, etc.
Russell was a blue chip of the blue chips recruits as well out of Blair Academy, New Jersey where hew as a 3x National Prep Champ as well as a Cadet and Junior National Champ in Fargo.
In College, Russell produced more results on paper with 3 All-Americans, 4 Big Ten Titles, and 2 NCAA titles, but anyone who watched closely can tell you that Simmons was the same caliber type of guy - his Junior Year he won the Big Ten Title and was a sliver away from the NCAA Finals at 141 after losing a heart-breaker to Nate Gallick of Iowa State in the Semifinals. As a Senior, Simmons was the #1 wrestler in the country most of the year, but nagging injuries kept him out of most of his senior season and ultimately pulled him out of the NCAA tournament.
Morale of the story - you could make the argument that we have two of the best 141lbers in the last decade of college wrestling about to square off this Sunday.
The issue here is - this is not a hypothetical conversation about when they were "in their prime". These two studs are in totally different stages of their careers. Russell is the current #2 on the US Senior Ladder at 66kg and is actively training at Cliff Keen WC in Ann Arbor and competeting internationally.
Simmons, meanwhile, is nearly a decade out of his college career and has not competeted in a few years. So the question is - how close is the 2013 version of Andy Simmons to the Andy Simmons of his "prime"?
"I am good to go," said Simmons, "I have been wrestling 3-5 days a week and doing a lot of cross-training 3-5 days a week to get my cardio up, and bottom line, I know how to wrestle."
What makes this matchup even more appealing is the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry. Whenever you get a Spartan and a Wolverine competing against one another, the intensity goes up.
While Simmons and Russell have swung in the same training and competetive circles for the last 10 years, they have never actually competed against one another as Russell's freshman campaign at Michigan was the season following Simmons senior year at Michigan State. Therefore, they really are not as familiar with one another as you might expect.
"I know he is a good athlete with good balance, good defense, and good counter attacks," said Simmons, "My approach is going to be to create multiple attacks by creating angles through handfighting and exploding through some shots."
Common sense tells us that Russell is the favorite, however, you can never discount the importance of one's competetive edge. Andy Simmons knows how to wrestle, he knows to win and he is one of the grittiest wrestlers the state of Michigan has ever seen.
"A lot of people probably think he (Russell) is going to come in and get an easy win," said Simmons, "But I think a lot of people will be surprised."
A pushover he will never be, so regardless of the outcome, expect to see a fight on Sunday between a couple world-class competitors, one Spartan and one Wolverine.