Williamson aids former teammates

Allison Younge

It was only an hour after Kipp Williamson heard the news of Gophers wrestler Brandon Paulson’s serious ankle injury when Coach J Robinson was on the phone asking him to rejoin the team and compete at 118 pounds.
“After I heard about Brandon, I thought maybe I could go back and help the team at 118. When J called, I already knew what he was going to ask me,” Williamson said.
Immediately after receiving the offer, Williamson took on the challenge to help out his former team and make weight at 118.
In Minnesota’s match against Penn State last Sunday, Williamson’s decision produced outstanding results. He pinned Arturo Cabanas in 3:42, jumpstarting the No. 3 Gophers to a 28-7 rout of No. 4 Penn State.
Williamson left the Gophers earlier this season to concentrate on his academics, get a job and train in the Army ROTC program. The decision to retire from wrestling wasn’t easy for Williamson, who competed for three seasons with Minnesota.
“I missed it a lot. Sometimes I had a hard time sleeping because I’d go through matches in my mind,” Williamson said.
Eleven months after his final match for the Gophers, Williamson was on the mat at 118 pounds again — and what he lacked in conditioning, he made up for in intensity.
“My teammates joked with me before Penn State that I’d probably go out, throw the kid on his back and pin him right away,” Williamson said. “I knew if I was going to win, I had to get a pin. I wasn’t in good enough shape to go all seven minutes.”
The Gophers have three matches left before the Big Ten Tournament. Williamson has agreed to stick with the team until Paulson is healthy, but he doesn’t plan to rejoin permanently.
“I’m busy with academics and my ROTC training,” Williamson said. “If Brandon is back by the Big Tens, I’ll probably leave the team then and go back to work.”
Paulson, a team leader and veteran at 118 pounds, tore three ligaments in his ankle in the second round of the National Duals Tournament. He underwent corrective surgery on Jan. 29.
Minor complications have occurred since the surgery, sidelining Paulson until the Big Tens.
“The doctor said that I should be ready to go by the Big Tens. My ankle won’t be 100 percent, but it’ll be good enough that I can wrestle. And that’s all I really need,” Paulson said.
Even though he wrestled an unforgettable comeback match, “Super Kipp” (his new nickname) looks forward to Paulson’s return. The demands of school and sports are more than Williamson chooses to handle, and his priorities have changed.
Paulson, however, would like to see his substitute remain with the Gophers.
“He’s part of the team now,” Paulson said. “If we win the national tournament, he’s a part of it because he kept the team together.”

Note: Robinson hasn’t yet determined the compensation Williamson will receive for his return to the team, although he said the program will buy his books for spring quarter.
“We’re going to help him out,” Robinson said. “But he didn’t come back for money. He came back to help out his teammates, with no expectations. That’s pretty unusual in today’s world.”