Wrestler’s presence keeps U loose

Sarah Mitchell

Gophers assistant coach Marty Morgan easily separated Delaney Berger from the “pretty boys” and the “book worms” on Minnesota’s wrestling team, calling Berger “a bit eccentric” and saying “he considers himself a good-time Charlie.”
The 174-pound jokester was just as quick, however, to shoot back with some dirt on his fellow teammates and coaches.
“Everybody’s got their nicknames, but then we all have our self-proclaimed names,” Berger said. “Morgan’s self-proclaimed name is Shotgun, Morgan Shotgun. He claims that back in the day he used to get all hyped up before the meet. When he would run out from the locker room, people would yell ‘Shotgun.'”
Berger divulged others — Brandon Eggum as “Bam Bam” and Chad Kraft as “Limp Wrist” — but then became serious as the subject centered around his shoulder. At Saturday’s Great Plains Open in Lincoln, Neb., the junior suffered a third-round injury so severe he lost total sensation in his arm.
Since then Berger has regained only minimal feeling, but has lost hope of competing in the National Duals Meet, the second biggest event on the schedule next to the NCAA championships, this weekend in Iowa City. Inflamed nerves in his left shoulder will keep Berger off the mat for the next couple of weeks.
“If I could wrestle this weekend, it’d be a done deal,” Berger said. “But I don’t have the range of motion or sensation to do that.”
Berger’s first real recognition as a grappler came in junior high, when as a seventh grader the self-described “ornery little sucker” made the high school’s varsity team along with his twin brother Dustin. The Mandan, N.D., native placed in state competition the following season.
By his final year of high school, Berger was completely dedicated to the sport and never doubted joining Minnesota’s hard-nosed program.
“Wrestling is 99 percent of our lives. We deny ourselves of some things that ordinary people take for granted,” Berger said. “But (coach J Robinson) says that if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to get everything else done.”
The sports studies major already has plans to occupy his free time after wrestling. One direction includes combining his intrigue with the law with his love for sports. But due in part to an experience last year, Berger is also considering a stop in Hollywood first.
“I was in class one day and I answered a question and the teacher said, ‘Why don’t you come try out for this play tonight,’ just because of the way I answered the question,” Berger said.
Curious, Berger tried out for “Yes, I Said I Remember,” by D.H. Lawrence. Two days later, the wrestler, called “Horsey” by his teammates, found his name on the call back list.
“Before the last tryout, they made everyone stand in a line and share their past experiences,” Berger said. “I’m standing at the end of the line and listening to people list off all these experiences and I have none. When the guy got to me I said, “`I was in ‘Salty the Singing Song Book’ in seventh grade.’ Everyone laughed.”
But Berger showed the critics, grabbing one of five parts. His role was Henry, a character bearing close resemblance to Val Kilmer in the movie “Tombstone,” and Berger’s teammates were among his admirers on opening night.
Whether they’re rooting him on from the sidelines or from front stage seats, Berger said his relationships with teammates like Tim “The Beast” Hartung and Josh “Spiderman” Holiday will make it harder to leave his career as a Gophers wrestler behind.
“Wherever I go, wrestling will always be a part of my life,” Berger said. “I don’t want to leave my buddies.”