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February 21, 2007 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-02-21

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8A - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

in dire
Daily Sports Editor
The Michigan men's basketball team
may have been pleased with its "signa-
ture win" over the
weekend. But with- Michigan
out a victory tonight,
the Wolverines' auto- at Illinois
graph will likely fade Matchup:
into obscurity. Michigan 18-9;
Michigan travels Illinois 19-9
to Champaign for a 9
p.m. tip off this eve- When:
ning against Illinois Tonight, 9 p.m.
in another do-or-die Where:
scenario. Assembly Hall
The Wolverines
may be without its TV/Radio:
captainLesterAbram. ESPNU
His status is uncertain
after he was arrested Monday morning
for driving with a suspended license.
Michigan has been in must-win mode
to keep its fragile Tournament hopes
alive. Since theirJan. 31 loss to Iowa, the
Wolverines are 2-1, dropping the lone
road game of the stretch to Michigan
Tonight is Michigan's last chance to
notch a quality win away from Crisler
Arena this season.
"We have to get one on the road,"
junior Ron Coleman said. "We know
how tough it is in the Big Ten on the
road, and we have to go down to Illinois
with the mindset that we're on a mission
and that we have to go down there and
try to get something done."
Even though the Wolverines have
been tame away from Crisler all year
(1-5 Big Ten, 2-7 overall), this evening's
game won't be as intimidating as previ-
ous road contests. Michigan has already
faced the Illini this season, defeating
them on Jan. 3,71-61, in Ann Arbor.
To add injury to insult, the Illini
have had an entire week of distractions,
highlighted by last Monday's car acci-
dent involving players Jamar Smith and

No prom, no
problem for frosh

Senior Courtney Sims scored 13 points off the bench in Michigan's 58-55 win over Indiana.
Brian Carlwell. "We always consider different
Both will miss the game, but Carlwell options," Amaker said. "We're always
may return for the Big Ten tournament. looking to see what advantage we can
Smith, on the other hand, mutually have for ourselves. We're not sure about
agreed with Illinois coach Bruce Weber Wednesday, but we're certainly goingto
to sit out the rest of the season. As of look at everything that we feel can pos-
yesterday, he'll face charges for driv- sibly help us."
ing under the influence and leaving the The change sparked the Wolver-
scene of an accident stemming from the ines and Sims, who scored 13 points
incident. and pulled down five rebounds off the
Illinois also has had to deal with the bench.
firestorm following the announcement Even though Sims isn't used to a
that its longtime mascot, Chief Illini- reserve role, the Boston native didn't
wek, will be retired due to pressure from seem opposed to the idea.
the NCAA. Tonight will be his last per- "I'll do whatever it takes to win,"
formance. Sims said. "I don't think anybody would
But the Illini have won six of their last say they want to come off the bench. If
eight and, despite all the off-the-court you're competitive, you want to play....
problems, are still in the race for an at- But whatever it takes to win, it doesn't
large tournamentbid. matter. If it means (the team) gets a
"Illinois is that much better now just spark like in the last game ... then that's
like I think we're better now than when what it takes."
we played them (in January)," sopho- A win would put the Wolverines one
more Jerret Smith said. "We're going game over .500 in Big Ten play and one
into their environment knowing that win closer to tournamentconsideration.
they've gotten better, and we know we If Michigan can continue winning its
have to get better to compete." own personal tournament - a series of
Michigan's biggest question head- win-or-go-home games - it will have
ing into the game is the starting lineup. another big signature.
Against Indiana, coach Tommy Amaker That of a NCAA Tournament-bound
replaced Coleman and senior Courtney team.
Sims with Smith and freshman Ekpe NOTE: Tonight's game will be broad-
Udoh. But Michigan coach Tommy cast on ESPNU, which is only available
Amaker was mum on the subject. to Direct-TV owners.

Daily Sports Editor
Take a look at who's leaving Michigan's sec-
ondary, and you'll understand why freshman
safety Artis Chambers chose to pass on one
final semester of high
school. EARLY
lis Barringer won't strap ENTRANCE
on the winged helmet in A sneak peak
2007, leaving the oppor- at the four
tunity for Chambers to early-enrollees
come in and make an for Michigan
immediate difference. PART 2 OF 4
And that's why he's
already on campus.
"I knew we were losing two safeties this
year, and I wanted to make an early impact on
the team this year," Chambers said. "I came
here early to get bigger and stronger and help
the team next fall."
Rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com,
Chambers joined fullback Vince Helmuth,
quarterback Ryan Mallett and junior college
transfer linebacker Austin Panter as early
enrollees in Ann Arbor for the winter semes-
Chambers's arrival allows him to par-
ticipate in winter workouts and eventually in
spring practices. After hearing about the safe-
ty's decision, one of his high school assistant
coaches, Bob Bergeron, sat down with Cham-
bers to remind him of the pros and cons of leav-
ing high school early. And though Chambers
would miss out on senior prom, basketball and
track, he had already made up his mind.
"He was fully aware of those situations and
accepted them fully, knowing that this was, in
the long run, the best thing for him," Bergeron
said. "That takes a lot of introspection for a
high school senior to see the long term instead
of the short term."
With Barringer's graduation and Mundy's
departure, Chambers will be in competition
with fifth-year senior safety Brandent Engle-
mon, sophomore safety Stevie Brown and
senior cornerback Charles Stewart to start
alongside returningsafety Jamar Adams.
There is widespread speculation that Stew-
art may switch positions from cornerback to
safety after losing his starting position last
season. Both Brown and Stewart have more

time in the program, but Bergeron sees Cham-
bers's early enrollment as a chance to for the
6-foot-2 safety to learn the defensive schemes
and adjust to the physical demands of college
Bergeron first saw Chambers's potential
during the safety's sophomore year of high
school, when Chambers became the leader of
the defense on a team that went to the state
During the recruiting process, Chambers
received offers from Indiana and Purdue.
He also fielded interest from other Big Ten
schools, including Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Purdue coach Joe Tiller even went as far as to
label Chambers "the one that got away."
Unfortunately for Tiller, the getting away
part was the exact reason Chambers left the
state of Indiana.
"I had a little bit of interest in Purdue, but
I just wanted to be a little farther away from
home," Chambers said.
The Fort Wayne, Ind., native also received a
little direction from Bergeron. Bergeron kicked
for the Wolverines in the early 1980s and let
Chambers know exactly what was in store for
him when he joined the Michigan program.
"He said they always expect you to do your
best," Chambers said. "Theydon'ttellyouwhat
to do; you just have to be ready to do it on your
But the jump from high school to college has
been more drastic than Chambers imagined.
The Fort Wayne Snider High School stand-
out has spent most of his time on campuswork-
ing out with the team, studying film and, most
important, finding his classes.
"The first couple of weeks were real tough
for me," Chambers said. "I didn't know where
anything was, and I didn't really know what to
expect coming from high school, all the differ-
ent classes and stuff. Now, I'm just finally get-
ting used to everything and the schedules and
things like that."
But for Bergeron, these first few months are
the just the start of a great college career for
"First of all, he will get a degree from Michi-
gan, which you can never go wrong with,"
Bergeron said. "He will bea contributor to the
football program whether it's on the field or
off the field because he's a high character indi-

For senior captain, a
little less means more

Churella is the third of a
kind for Grapplers

Daily Sports Writer
Fifteen minutes into the regu-
lar season, the Michigan men's
gymnastics team needed a hero.
It was halfway through the first
rotation of parallel bars at the
Windy City Invitational, and the
Wolverines' highest score was an
8.65. The specters of the past year
- when a talented team never
quite put it all together - loomed
Enter senior co-captain
Andrew Elkind.
With his teammates cheering
him on, Elkind hit his routine
for a score of 9.5 - and the unde-
feated Wolverines haven't looked
back since.
Michigan's 2007 season has
been one of redemption, exor-
cising demons and proving the
critics wrong. And nobody epito-
mizes that journey better than
Last year, he was something of
an enigma, a superb performer
in practice whose success didn't
translate in competition. One of
the hardest workers on the team,
he didn't struggle from lack of
effort - it may even have been
from trying too hard.
As a young gymnast, Elkind
would often ask his coaches if
he'd done everything perfectly in
his workout, or if there was any-
thingextra he could do. His work

ethic hasn't changed much since
"He's a real perfectionist,
which is good, but sometimes
you just have to let your body go,"
said sophomore Joe Catrambone,
who has known Elkind since they
were kids, and later teammates,
in New Jersey. "You just gotta let
it happen. (Before this year), he
would try maybe a little too hard
sometimes. And if one skill was
off, then the whole routine might
go wrong."
Before the start of the 2007
season, Elkind was named cap-
tain of the team, along with
fifth-year senior Justin Laury.
Finally, everything began to fall
into place.
After scoring a 9.9 on parallel
bars during a practice intrasquad,
Elkind destroyed the previous
record on the apparatus with a
9.8 in a home meet against Iowa.
Against two-time defending
national champion Oklahoma,
he posted big scores on all four of
his events - pommel horse, still
rings, parallel bars and high bar.
But his favorite moment of the
season was beating No. 2 Penn
State on the road, where the
Nittany Lions hadn't lost in two
"That's something people say
can't be done, that (happens)
once in a blue moon," Elkind
said. "Everyone knew they were
putting up their best, they were

going to get the home-crowd
advantage, and even with a rough
meet and coming from behind,
we stole it away from them. It
made the eight-hour bus ride
home a lot easier."
Elkind has learned to deal
with the pressure of competition
and even thrive on it. Instead of
forcing success, he's just letting
it happen.
"He cares about himself, but
he also puts the team ahead of
himself," Catrambone said. "He
knows when to step up when
we need him in a meet now. 4e
knows what to tell us to get peo-
ple motivated in the gym or in a
And this year, his team has his
With so many Wolverines tal-
ented in different areas, no one
has to shoulder the burden of
carrying the entire team through
tough times.
"I think he's just learning
how to compete now," Michigan
coach Kurt Golder said. "Even
though as a junior gymnast he
had a lot of meets ... it just seems
that being at this level of inten-
sity, when dual meets are on the
line and you're in champion-
ships, every time you go you gain
something from it. Fortunately,
it's coming through for him in his
senior year, and it's contributing
a lot to make this a special year
for us."

Daily Sports Writer
Usually, blood and wrestling
don't mix. If blood gets on the mat
during a meet, the match is stopped
and the mess is cleaned up.
But for the Michigan wrestling
team this season, it's been the blood
that has been sweeping opponents
off the floor.
No need to worry about safe-
ty, though this blood isn't red. In
fact, one might think junior Josh
Churella's blood is maize and blue,
considering he's the fourth member
of his family to wrestle for the Wol-
has risen to the nation's No. 2 rank-
ing in the 149-pound weight class
(as of Feb. 6), accumulating a 22-3
record thus far.
"Growing up, wrestling was
always there," said Churella, whose
father and two brothers wrestled at
Michigan. "It was always something
we had in our blood."
Only Minnesota's Dustin Schlat-
ter lies in his path to the nation's top
spot in his weight class. Schlatter
narrowly beat Churella 2-1 in Janu-

ary in a match that came down to
Schlatter's riding time advantage.
Without his brother Ryan as a
teammate for his first time at Mich-
igan, Churella has stepped up as a
team captain, racking up 32 dual-
meet points, including three falls,
one technical fall and five major
decisions. And while natural wres-
tling talent is certainly something
he relies upon, Churella's fierce
intensity separates him most on the
mat, whether it's at a practice or a
dual meet.
"(His success) just goes back to
his preparation," Michigan coach
Joe McFarland said. "I think just
the way he approaches his practice,
he really has a deep desire to be a
national champion, and that's what
drives him every day."
The drive to win is always present
in Churella. In a recent loss, Churel-
la stormed off the mat angry that
he couldn't contribute to the team's
upsetvictory over Ohio State.
"I don't like to lose, period,"
Churella said. "Some people, they
lose, and they kind of shake it off.
But I'm never going to be in a good
mood if I lose, because I'm striving
to be the best."

It is this attitude - not family
pressure - that has driven the red-
shirt junior to the top.
Despite his family's involve-
ment in wrestling, he didn't begin
the sport himself until the seventh
"(My father) just didn't believe in
starting (me) real early because it's
really common for college wrestlers
to start early when they're five years
old and stuff like that," Churella
said. "But he just didn't believe in
it. He thought it'd burn you out and
that he could teach all the necessi-
ties to wrestling ifhe started late."
Withhisinner fireburningstrong,
Churella is quickly approaching the
century win mark for his career
(88). The milestone would place him
among the school's elite wrestlers
and alongside his father (132 wins)
and brother Ryan (117 wins).
But the All-American is more
focused on the goal he's had since
middle school which is now within
reach - an NCAA Championship.
"If he stays focused on what he
wants to get done this year, and then
taking it one match at a time at the
nationals, I don't see himhaving any
problems," McFarland said.


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