Former All-American Lowe relishes return to underdog status on the mat

A poor NCAA outing last year gave Bobbe Lowe reason to renew his commitment.

Matt Anderson

Minnesota wrestling senior Bobbe Lowe has had his best performances when most people seemed to be counting him out.

“I was always the type of kid that looked at papers and looked at things where people were talking crap about me,” Lowe said. “The greatest thing is when people anticipate something else, and you show them that it’s not the real deal.”

He’d have it no other way. And now the 125-pounder is setting himself up to prove last season was an aberration from an All-America season in 2003.

In 2003 – his first year at Minnesota – Lowe won a surprise All-American spot at the NCAA Championships after he finished with just a 19-20 record in the regular season.

After compiling a 24-12 record in the regular season last year, Lowe stumbled in the NCAAs, going 2-2 and not placing at 125 pounds.

Coming off of that performance, it would have been easy to write him off as having simply caught lightning in a bottle at the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

“I told myself this summer, I’ve got to make a commitment to really get in the weight room, get in the wrestling room and go over stuff that I need to work on every day,” Lowe said. “I put those extra hours in that other guys aren’t.”

That work has paid off early this season. Lowe is 15-0 with three tournament titles and wins over three opponents ranked in the top 12 in the nation.

After beating No. 12 Mark McKnight and No. 9 Joe Dubuque en route to the 125-pound title at the Mat Town

Invitational in Lock Haven, Pa., Lowe kept that momentum going against No. 11 Jeremy Mendoza of Arizona State on Tuesday.

Lowe looks to continue that success Sunday, when the eighth-ranked Gophers wrestle in Rochester, Minn., against No. 17 Northern Iowa at 2 p.m.

Last season, things seemed to break against Lowe.

After earning All-America honors, he was no longer a wrestler opponents would be caught overlooking; suddenly, there were expectations.

“I think towards the latter part of the season, I felt a little bit of pressure, and it forced my body a lot more tension, a lot more stress,” Lowe said.

Lowe also had trouble making weight at 125.

“What you end up doing (when trying to make weight) is you’re more worried about making weight than getting better,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “Once you get it under control, like he’s done this year, then you can concentrate on getting better.”

And get better is exactly what Lowe has done.

His early season success has moved him from a preseason ranking at No. 9 to No. 5. Now, he is one of four Big Ten wrestlers ranked in the top five.

“It’s good wrestling those guys all season long, knowing that you’re beating them and that they’re beating other guys in the country,” Lowe said. “It’s good to be wrestling that stiff competition, because it gets you prepared for later in the season.”

As a senior wrestler, this is Lowe’s last chance to accomplish his goal of winning a national championship.

Senior John Duncombe said he thinks that knowing he has little time remaining as a college wrestler has helped Lowe’s performance.

“It’s a lot different when you know you’ve only got one shot left,” Duncombe said. “When you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, it’s kind of easy to lose sight. But I think it’s changed his focus a lot, being a senior.”

Robinson concurs.

He said that, with just one opportunity left, he believes Lowe is more honed in on achieving the ultimate goal – not just returning to All-American status, but being the top All-American.

“Deadlines make you change,” Robinson said. “And I think that when you’re a senior and haven’t gotten to the top where he wants to be, I think you look at it, you reassess it and you want to do it the right way. It’s more important for him to be a national champion, and I think he’s done a better job of keeping everything in perspective.”