Wrestlers flip switch back to on

by Allison Younge

The Gophers wrestling team’s recent surge of energy leads a person to wonder if the team can turn its competitive fire on and off at will.
With the mid-season blahs cured after last weekend’s domination of Michigan State and Michigan at home, Gophers’ 190-pounder Tim Hartung offered a hint of rationale for the team’s sudden outbreak of enthusiasm.
“Everyone is sensing the end of the season coming,” Hartung said. “Big Tens are only three weeks away. You’ve got to get excited sometime and I think for us it’s starting right now.”
With the conference tournament in sight, the fourth-ranked Gophers are in the midst of the final training push. Excitement surrounds the postseason for the Gophers following last year’s successful tournament run. Finishing second at the Big Ten tournament and third at NCAAs has left Minnesota a viable contender for this year’s NCAA title.
Hitting the books
Gophers senior Jason Davids is just one dual meet victory away from capturing the all-time school record for dual meet wins. A two-time All-American, Davids leads the team with 17 dual meet wins this season, and holds a 77-12 career mark. Former Gophers 150-pounder Willy Short (1989-1994) currently tops the list with a career dual meet mark of 78-18-2.
Davids also currently ranks third in all-time career wins, posting an overall record of 123-24. He will probably pass Short on Sunday when the Gophers battle Purdue on the road.
Rabid Lamb
Shelton Benjamin, Minnesota’s sturdy heavyweight, said Michigan State heavyweight Matt Lamb used dirty antics Friday in an attempt to intimidate him in the last match of the night.
“He was cursing, doing that dumb stuff, poking me in the eye and scratching me,” Benjamin said. “He was just a cheap-shot artist.”
Visibly disturbed by his opponent’s unsportsmanlike conduct, an anger-filled Benjamin took control of the situation and the match. He scored a takedown and a two point near fall within the first two minutes of the match, leading him to a 15-3 major decision.
After the lopsided match, Benjamin explained his burst of energy.
“I wrestle better when I’m mad, and he pissed me off pretty early,” Benjamin said. “I wanted to make him look as stupid as possible.”
Berger on a roll
While consistently providing top-notch competition in the practice room for his starting counterparts, Gophers sophomore Delaney Berger displayed his own match-winning techniques over the weekend.
The Gophers’ usual 167-pound replacement proved his wrestling versatility by earning two major decision victories at 177 pounds. With Minnesota’s starting 177-pounder Brandon Eggum out with a knee injury, Berger welcomed the idea of moving up a weight class and having a chance to wrestle in front of the Gophers’ home crowd.
“A lot of people know about me; they know I’m here, but they don’t get to see me perform,” Berger said. “It feels good to come out and perform for them. For me, wrestling is a performance. That’s what I thrive on.”