Top wrestlers stare U in eye

Allison Younge

Rankings and records are at stake, as well as a whole lot of pride when 16 of the nation’s top wrestling powers meet this weekend in Nebraska for the fifth annual National Duals Tournament.
Gophers coach J Robinson is confident that Minnesota has the makings of a championship team. This weekend’s tournament offers the Gophers a timely chance to prove it.
“This team has the potential to beat anyone, but potential means nothing until you do it,” Robinson said.
The top five teams in the country will compete in the National Duals. It is being billed as the toughest tournament in the nation.
Currently ranked at No. 5, the Gopher’s will look to knock off top ranked teams including Iowa, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Penn State.
Top-ranked and defending NCAA and National Duals champion Iowa will be aiming for its third straight Duals title. Minnesota junior Jason Davids (ranked No. 2 at 142 pounds) wants a shot at breaking Iowa’s winning trend.
“I would like to wrestle Iowa,” Davids said. “We are No. 5 in the country, and I know that we’re good enough to beat those higher-ranked teams.”
The National Duals will kick off tonight with an opening banquet in which the top eight teams will draw their first opponents. Robinson hopes the luck of the draw sets Minnesota against a team it hasn’t already competed against this season.
“We need to get this team some competition, beat some people, win some close matches and prove how tough they are,” Robinson said.
This weekend will mark the Gophers’ first appearance in the National Duals. In previous years, Minnesota competed in the Virginia Duals. The Gophers took first place at this tournament for four years straight and ironically were not invited back this year.
“They got sick of us winning it every year, so they kicked us out,” Davids said. “Now we’re in an even better dual meet.”
Minnesota will compete in two, maybe three matches (depending on how they fare) on Saturday and Sunday. Robinson is excited to see how the Gophers will handle the exhausting tournament schedule.
“At a certain point, endurance runs into mental toughness,” Robinson said. “You must have mental toughness. Everybody gets tired, but you must be able to function when you are tired”.
Two Gophers veterans who will be called upon to provide intensity and leadership are juniors Davids and Zac Taylor.
Davids is a vocal leader expected to produce team confidence, big scores and a sure win.
“Davids is an excellent leader. His only focus when he steps on the mat is wrestling, nothing else,” Robinson said.
Taylor, ranked No. 4 at 167 pounds, took last year off with Olympic commitments. Robinson likes Taylor’s positive qualities.
“Zac takes responsibility and pushes himself to where he wants to be as a wrestler. He is a quiet leader, but very effective,” Robinson said.
Robinson, Davids and Taylor agree it will take an excellent weekend of wrestling, but they expect the Gophers to take the title.
“Ideally, when you come off the mat, you should collapse, you should have no energy left, you should leave everything out there — we need that extra one or two percent out of everybody,” Robinson said.