Robinson’s camps teach youths ‘life skills’

J Robinson’s intensive camps are one of six types of wrestling camps offered.

Robert Mews

Despite temperatures soaring past 90 degrees the past few days, a herd of runners still took to University streets with athletic improvement on their minds.

These runners weren’t just any collection of athletes, but 14- to 18-year-olds who paid $2,149 to give up 28 days of summer fun for a life-altering experience at J Robinson’s intensive wrestling camp.

“Last year I had a disappointing season (wrestling),” said Trenton Larrieu, a Spring Valley, Wis., high school wrestler, of his decision to come to the camp. “I figured this is the way to get better.”

That is just what J Robinson, Minnesota’s wrestling coach for the past 20 years, had in mind when he started the camps for youths 28 years ago.

Robinson has a variety of nationwide camps to choose from. Along with six types of wrestling camps, Robinson also has basketball and hockey camps.

“I think you start them just like any other coach,” Robinson said. “You just start them as part of your program. Try and help the younger wrestlers get better.”

But Robinson’s intensive camp isn’t like other camps.

The 28-day camp is the longest of all of his camps, with a typical day starting at 6:30 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m. It includes plenty of running and weight lifting as well as unorthodox training techniques to help develop what Robinson calls “life skills.”

“It’s hard. The intensity really picks up as the camp goes,” Larrieu said.

Current Gophers wrestler Mack Reiter helps the youngsters train and said some can’t make it through because of the duration and intensity of training.

“It’s about as intense as you can get,” he said. “I mean you can’t put these kids through much more than we already do put them through.”

But that’s what Robinson said makes the difference between his camps and others being offered.

“Most sports camps are skill development,” he said. “(My training) has more to do with (work ethic) than just the technical part of it.”

Robinson said the work ethic is something that goes a long way into giving youths a life skill.

Larrieu said he hopes those skills will transfer into better results on the mat this coming year and possibly in the future at Minnesota.

“This is a really big college that I look forward to hopefully coming to one year,” Larrieu said of the Minnesota wrestling program.

Larrieu would break the streak of J Robinson campers coming to Minnesota. No current Gophers wrestler has been to Robinson’s camp before coming to school at Minnesota.

But first, Larrieu has to complete his junior and senior year of high school.

“These are high school kids that want to be good,” Robinson said. “They don’t know how to be good, and what we do is we teach them work ethic on how they can be successful.”