For Jackson, time at Minnesota was precious

He wrestled in just three duel meets in five years, but doesn't regret it for a minute.

It took Gophers wrestler Dan Jackson no more than 10 seconds to nearly pin his opponent, South Dakota State’s Alan Marvin, in his match Sunday afternoon. At the sound of the whistle, in a fury of quick movements, Jackson grabbed Marvin, hooked his foot behind him and slammed him to the ground.

Guys like Dan Jackson don’t have time to waste. A fifth-year senior, the 125-pound Jackson’s seven minutes on the mat that afternoon – he eventually lost the match 8-4 – will probably be the last of his career.

“It’s sad, but it’s been a long journey and I’m just grateful I’ve gotten to be part of this program,” he said. “I’ve just stayed here knowing that there could be that opportunity any time that the coaches could need me, and I’m glad I got one of those this year.”

In five years on the wrestling team, Jackson has wrestled in just three dual-meets.

That’s five years of eating and drinking sparsely to cut weight, five years of coach J Robinson’s notoriously grueling practices and five years of helping teammates improve in practice while watching them pass him by on the depth chart.

“He’s a guy that just comes in and does his work every day even if he doesn’t get noticed for it much,” assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “He’s helped us out in a lot of different ways though, besides just in matches. With his attitude and work ethic, he makes everybody a lot better.”

“I’ve just tried to be a good partner,” Jackson said. “If anybody wants to come early in the morning to wrestle, I’ll be there for them. I just want to help out any way I can.”

The crowd of 1,604 gave Jackson a rousing applause as he left the mat Sunday, disappointed over his loss but smiling as a swarm of teammates congratulated him. Among those people were Jackson’s parents, Jeremiah and Sinda Jackson, as well as his brother, sister, girlfriend, girlfriend’s mother and girlfriend’s brother.

Jeremiah and Sinda try to make the five hour drive from Janesville, Wis., whenever they know their son is going to wrestle.

“Daniel has worked so hard to get to this point, it’s pretty amazing,” Jeremiah Jackson said. “With his academics as good as they are (a two-time University scholar athlete), to still be able to achieve so much athletically is something not many people could do. I respect him a lot for it.”

Dan and his brother Jeremiah Jr., who was a track star at the University of Wisconsin, grew up watching professional wrestling on television and imitating the moves at home. It was Jeremiah who, noticing his younger brother’s small size and quickness, encouraged him to try out for the wrestling team in seventh grade, making Dan the first wrestler in the Jackson family.

With little knowledge of the sport, he went out and won his first tournament, and decided to stick with it. He was a three-time conference champion in high school, and decided to attend Minnesota instead of a smaller school where he could wrestle more because, “Minnesota is the best and I might as well go for the best.”

Jackson said that, even knowing how little he would wrestle in five years, he would make the same decision.

“It’s just a great family here,” he said. “Everybody is looking out for each other. You know the coaches always have your back. Basically, I wouldn’t trade those five years for anything.”