Zilverberg shows resilience, grasps spot at 157

Danny Zilverberg’s career has been an uphill battle, but he earned a starting spot for the Gophers this season.

Minnesota's Danny Zilverberg tries to take down Michigan State's Ryan Watts on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Minnesota’s Danny Zilverberg tries to take down Michigan State’s Ryan Watts on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Dane Mizutani

It was never a hard choice for current Gophers 157-pound starter Danny Zilverberg.

He comes from a long line of success with the Gophers. His father wrestled at Minnesota, and his two uncles were All-American wrestlers with the program. Even his older brother, David Zilverberg, was a part of the long-storied family tradition.

So when it came time for him to pick a college?

“There was really no other choice than Minnesota,” Danny Zilverberg said. “It’s kind of been a goal all my life.”

Zilverberg has battled throughout his entire career with the Gophers and most recently won a battle for the starting spot at 157 pounds.

Zilverberg and Brad Dolezal traded the spot early this season, but Zilverberg took over at the Southern Scuffle.

“He did a good job down there,” assistant coach Luke Becker said. “He had a couple close matches that he was right there. … He’s shown the most progression.”

Zilverberg said he feels like 157 is his spot and he’s earned it.

His older brother said he never doubted that Danny Zilverberg would earn a spot in the starting lineup.

“I’ve wrestled with him since we could both stand up,” David Zilverberg said, “and seeing him at the 157 spot right now shows all the hard work is paying off for him.”

Zilverberg’s tenacity on the mat stretches back to his days wrestling at Wayzata High School.

In his senior year at Wayzata, Zilverberg discovered he had a broken vertebra in his back. He found the stress fracture in the fall of his senior season, but he didn’t give up.

Zilverberg battled through the broken back vertebra en route to a state title. His high school success didn’t immediately translate to college, but after some struggles, he started to see an increase in mat time this year.

Zilverberg recalled his days as a true freshman.

“There were those days as a freshman when I just got beat on in the room and didn’t score a point,” he said.

He said he understood that was all part of the process with Minnesota.

Zilverberg started his career at 149 pounds but bumped up a weight class after his freshman year with the team. He got his shot at 157 pounds after star wrestler Jake Deitchler retired due to recurring concussions.

Zilverberg hasn’t fared well on the mat early this season and is 1-4 in Big Ten matchups. He has shown glimpses of improvement over the past two weeks.

“He’s a completely different wrestler than what he was three months ago at the start of the season,” David Zilverberg said.

Danny Zilverberg battled tight with No. 1-ranked Derek St. John of Iowa two weeks ago and lost in the final seconds against Michigan State last week.

Becker said the coaches gave the starters the day off after the Michigan State match, but Zilverberg was so upset with his performance, he came in and wrestled on his day off.

“I try not to get too down on myself,” Zilverberg said. “I hate to lose, and it sucks … but as long as you learn from it, then it’s not completely a loss. I’d rather lose now than lose in March.”

He will have an opportunity for a step forward this weekend with rival Wisconsin on the ballot.

Becker said this weekend could provide a launching pad for Zilverberg for the rest of the season.

“He’s right there,” Becker said. “He needs to win one of those close matches and get over the hump. He has to make that jump because we’re getting down to the end of the season, and sooner or later you run out of opportunities.”