U wrestler Lowe struggles through the ranks

125-pound wrestler Bobbe Lowe was an All-American last season despite sixth at Big Tens.

Aaron Blake

Bobbe Lowe is a slow starter, and he knows it.

Minnesota wrestling’s 125-pound mainstay loses in the first round at tournaments, makes mistakes early in matches and isn’t thrilled with the way he’s started this season.

But at the same time, Lowe provides all the inspiration his struggling and young teammates need to believe a poor regular season can quickly morph into a successful year come March.

“Everything is about the end of the year, and I think Bobbe’s a great example of that,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “We use that as an example all the time.”

Lowe trudged through a sub-.500 regular season last year and entered the Big Ten tournament as the eighth seed, knowing nobody expected much from him.

A sixth-place finish there was good enough to earn him a chance two weeks later at the NCAA championships in Kansas City, Mo., about 20 miles from his hometown of Oak Grove, Mo.

When he got there, he made a pact with himself.

“I told myself that I came up here for a reason – to be an All-American and be a national champion,” the junior said. “I stuck to what I said, and I thought about it when I was wrestling matches.

“I had to have faith that I’d start beating kids. It just started happening at a great time.”

As he did in the conference tournament, Lowe lost his first match at nationals, resigning himself to battle elimination in the consolation bracket.

And battle he did.

Lowe began by knocking off Oklahoma State eighth seed Skyler Holman, to whom he had dropped an 18-5 major decision two and a half months before.

He then won three consecutive matches, culminating with a pin of Lehigh’s Terrance Clendenin, which assured Lowe a top-eight finish and his name engraved with every other All-American in Minnesota wrestling history.

Still, after finishing in eighth place, the All-American’s overall record last year was just 19-20 – a testament to how unspectacular the rest of his season was.

And that makes it easier for his teammates to believe what their coaches have been telling them.

“Other teams kind of have a tendency to start slowing down towards the end,” 133-pounder Quincy Osborn said. “We train to peak at the end, and we do a good job of that. Some guys who aren’t having ideal years can peak at nationals.”

Osborn’s sentiments have been branded onto the collective psyches of a young Gophers squad that needs some hope right now.

Less than two months away from the national tournament, No. 12 Minnesota is 7-4 and battling injuries and other reasons that have kept its other two All-Americans out of the lineup for several matches.

Lowe is struggling himself. Ranked 18th, he’s 4-4 in duals and not even impressed with his victorious efforts.

But the confidence he had to muster at the end of last year is already there, and he said his own personal corner is upon him.

“I’m turning the corner this year a hell of a lot sooner,” Lowe said. “The guys I have lost to are top-eight guys in the country, and I’m losing to them by one or two points. So I know I’m right there.”

As Lowe waits for his teammates to join him, all he can do is his part. He shies away from being a vocal leader, instead leaving that to the coaching staff.

He would rather lead by example – last year’s and, soon to be, this year’s. And last weekend, there was no better example than Lowe.

When a family emergency kept 197-pound national champion Damion Hahn out of the lineup, a team already without injured 165-pounder Jacob Volkmann was down to just one All-American – Lowe.

Wrestling in the first match Friday at Michigan State and the second match Saturday at Michigan, Lowe won both matches and set the tone for his teammates.

Unfortunately, Lowe was the only Gophers wrestler to win both his matches and, more specifically, the only Gopher to win a match against the Wolverines.

It was a further reminder that Minnesota might need a few Bobbe Lowes on this year’s team to finish in the top three at NCAAs for the eighth straight year.

“Basically, it just comes down to the mental aspect of it,” Lowe said. “You’ve got to tell yourself that you’re right there around that corner. You’re going to turn that corner soon. I think that goes for a lot of these other guys, too.”