Williams and Martinez contribute to Gophers despite limited playing time

by C.J. Spang

Friday night belonged to senior heavyweight Cole Konrad. After all, it was the defending national champion’s last home match of his career.

But Konrad wasn’t the only one honored on senior night. Danny Williams and Juan Martinez also came out at intermission to receive recognition for their contributions to the Minnesota wrestling team.

While Konrad’s contributions will require a small forest in order to document them, Williams’ and Martinez’s won’t be found in any record books.

Williams hasn’t competed this season because of a shoulder injury, but compiled a 21-25 overall record in his first three seasons. Martinez is 32-21 in his career.

The two 149-pounders’ match-day contributions pale in comparison to the man wrestling ahead of them in their weight class. Sophomore Dustin Schlatter went 42-1, winning a Big Ten Championship and National Championship as a freshman and is 28-0 this season.

“It’s impossible to have a successful team without these guys in the background, constantly pushing us in the practice room, running with us, lifting with us, keeping us going, Schlatter said.

“They don’t get enough credit for what they do.”

They might not get credit in public, but coach J Robinson said Williams and Martinez are as vital to the team’s success as anyone else.

“It’s like if you take the back off of a clock,” he said. “Take the smallest piece out of the back of the clock and it won’t work. That’s how important they are.”

There were times in the past few years when the clock might have stopped, as both Williams and Martinez said the thought of transferring crossed their minds.

But both said after wrestling at Minnesota, you don’t want to leave. And sticking it out is a very commendable thing, Robinson said.

“Anybody can quit, anybody can leave,” Robinson said. “In our whole society, people are leaving all the time because they can’t be the star and it goes back to the (clock): You need all the pieces. They were the pieces that made it work. They were the pieces that helped us.”

For Martinez, just becoming one of the pieces was a challenge from the beginning.

He had one of the least-heralded high school careers but was still offered a spot at Minnesota. Martinez said he was visiting a Division III school when he made up his mind because of what that school’s coach said to him that day.

“He said; ‘You’ll never make it there,’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ” Martinez said. “So I came to school here and started wrestling.”

While the number of matches and the recognition might have been limited during their time at Minnesota, both wrestlers said they don’t regret their decisions to become Gophers.

Martinez said he didn’t succeed as a wrestler like he’d hoped, but everything else that came with wrestling at Minnesota made up for it.

“It’s a disappointment in the aspect that I didn’t get where I wanted to get wrestling-wise,” he said. “But that disappointment led to a lot of other great things with friendships I’ve made.”

Williams said he has had chances and things just didn’t work out.

“I don’t regret staying here,” Williams said. “I think it’s a good choice; I’m glad I did it.”

– C.J. Spang welcomes comments at [email protected].