Nerves nab Holiday in second loss

Sarah Mitchell

Walking off the mat without having his arm lifted high above his head by the referee has been a rare occurrence for Gophers wrestler Josh Holiday.
Heading into Sunday’s meet at Wisconsin, the senior had been in this position only once, following a 5-3 loss to Oklahoma’s Rod Jones at the St. Louis Open in late November. Holiday (23-2 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten) lost his second match of the season Sunday, this time to Badgers sophomore Don Pritzlaff.
The sixth-ranked, 165-pound Holiday was decisioned 3-1, but a second period ruling left some Gophers skeptical. With no time on the clock and both wrestlers falling out of bounds, No. 3 Pritzlaff was awarded a takedown.
“It was a pretty questionable call,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “It seemed like they were both going out.”
Nerves might have factored into Holiday’s performance. With the 184-pounders taking to the mat first, Holiday, who drew the toughest competitor on Sunday, was forced to ride the bench until the second-to-last match, leaving plenty of time to think.
“Being nervous is the worst feeling,” said Holiday after Saturday’s match at Iowa. “Sometimes I can’t breathe. I have to force everything. And seconds, they just turn into minutes.”
Berger’s back
Junior Delaney Berger rejoined the lineup at 174 pounds this weekend after losing sensation and movement of his left arm at the Great Plains tournament three weeks ago. In his comeback match on Saturday, Berger was pinned by Iowa’s Gabe McMahan (No. 7) in 2:55.
“He caught him with something funky,” said Holiday of McMahan. “Usually when you are being held down like that, you know where you are on the mat and you just try to get comfortable. You have to move around or it will just get tighter. I guess I just don’t know how it happened because it looked like Delaney knew where he was.”
Freshman Matt Kraft wrestled in Berger’s place during Berger’s layoff. The Lakefield, Minn., native’s stint came during a demanding part of the schedule, including the National Duals.
“I think I’m right there with everyone else; there are just a few things I have to get used to,” Kraft said. “The intensity is one of those things. Everybody at that level wrestles real tough and it forces you to be good all the time.”
Backups hold their own
The Gophers reserves competed on Saturday at an open held at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Gophers assistant coach Joe Russell took the reigns in what was an impressive showing for Minnesota.
“It was definitely a tough tournament,” Russell said. “It was smaller, but there were a lot of quality wrestlers in the tournament.”
Minnesota had several second-place finishers — freshman Julio Alaniz (125), redshirt freshman Jared Lawrence (141) and redshirt freshman Jacob Clark (165).
Redshirt freshman Luke Becker (149), sophomore Brett Lawrence (133) and freshman Owen Elzen (197), who defeated Nebraska’s Justin Ruiz, claimed top honors.
“He beat the top recruit of his weight class,” Russell said of Elzen. “I was talking to (Nebraska coach Tim Neumann) and he said (Ruiz) is the best freshman he’s seen in Nebraska’s room.”
Minnesota added a home dual meet to its schedule, doubling up competition on Feb. 12. No. 25 Northern Iowa was the only team scheduled to make an appearance, but the Gophers will wrestle St. Cloud State first, bumping the start time to 6 p.m.
“We’ll probably wrestle some backups,” Russell said. “Plus, it’s senior night, so we’ll try to get all of the seniors in there.”