Nation’s top wrestler

Sarah Mitchell

As the No. 1 high school wrestler in the nation at any weight class, according to highly respected wrestling magazines and the National Wrestling Coaches Association, Damion Hahn had nearly every collegiate program competing for his services.
Several days prior to the letter of intent signing, Robinson made a pact with Hahn, promising to fly out to Lakewood, N.J., for the event if Hahn committed to Minnesota. With a skip in his step, the veteran coach found himself in attendance last Wednesday, already knowing what friends, family and the media were anticipating to hear — Hahn’s decision to wear maroon and gold at the next level.
“It came down to us and Oklahoma State,” Robinson said. “In the past, we’ve always lost the ~~~`best, best’ kind. But (Hahn’s) dad said Minnesota is the wave of the future. That means something when a father thinks highly of the program.”
Until he shared a late-night pizza with his parents, Miles and Betty, the two-time New Jersey state champ at 189 pounds seemed committed to the Cowboys program.
But a recent visit from Gophers assistant Marty Morgan lassoed Hahn’s attention back toward Minnesota.
“There were things that Marty told me that I hadn’t thought about,” Hahn said.
Top-ranked Oklahoma State and coach John Smith haven’t produced an All-American at the 184 weight class in recent years. With plans of wrestling at 184 in college, this statistic alarmed Hahn.
Hahn also noticed Minnesota’s ability to transform average wrestlers into national contenders. Senior Tim Hartung was once a walk-on, but now All-American and national champion are the only phrases associated with Hartung’s name.
“I feel the coaches at Minnesota will take better care of me,” Hahn said. “John, there’s something about him, I don’t feel comfortable with him.”
For Gophers backers, it will be nearly a year and a half until Hahn’s 180-plus pound frame prowls the mat in a dual meet. Minnesota coaches redshirt every incoming recruit, and despite his 94-2 scholastic record, Hahn is no exception to this practice.
“It will give me a chance to get into the room with these guys and practice with them,” Hahn said. “It gives the coaches and me a chance to figure each other out.”
The relief from competition should also allow Hahn time to prepare for the 2000 Olympics, where the high school standout hopes to represent the United States. If he takes advantage of the Gophers’ intense workouts, Hahn believes he will sport red, white and blue.
“Minnesota’s style is more condition-focused,” Hahn said. “I feel by going to Minnesota I will be in the best condition of my life.”
However, jogging daily and lifting weights on a regular basis doesn’t always make an athlete successful. Active in the sport since second grade, a period when Hahn fondly calls himself “a fat little kid” because of the 100 pounds he carried, Hahn believes a healthy attitude hoists him to the top.
“You have to be greedy and you can’t give out points,” Hahn said. “You have to believe when you step on the mat that you are the best.”
In a measuring stick dual meet, No. 2 Minnesota takes on Oklahoma State at Williams Arena on Sunday. And just as Robinson devoted his time to Hahn in the crucial days leading up to his signing, Hahn has been lobbying his parents for a plane ticket to Minneapolis this weekend.
“I think it’s going to go down to the wire,” Hahn said. “I’m rooting for them.”