Unique position suits U wrestler Holiday

Allison Younge

With a reputation for possessing top-ranked wrestlers in every weight class, the annual Big Ten tournament has traditionally become merely a preview of the competitors and team that will take home national hardware.
Considering six of the 10 top-ranked wrestlers hail from the Big Ten, as well as three of the top five teams, this year looks to be no different — with the exception of one weight class. The Big Ten’s 158-pounders seem to be an afterthought in recent national rankings, with the first contender breaking into the ranks at No. 11.
This novel situation couldn’t be more fitting for Gophers’ 158-pounder Josh Holiday. Currently occupying the spot at No. 11, Holiday has assumed the No. 1 seed at the Big Ten tournament this weekend at Penn State.
Known for his unconventional wrestling tactics, Holiday wows his audience with clever, unexpected offensive moves, leaving his opponent defensive and nervous. Being familiar with the position of crowd pleaser could benefit Holiday in his newly acquired role as tournament favorite.
“Being the No. 1 seed gives me confidence,” Holiday said. “It lets me know that when guys draw me, they’ll be thinking, Oh no, he’s the No. 1 seed.’ It doesn’t even matter who I am, it’s just the position.”
While Holiday might think its only the No. 1 seed that makes him more threatening, Gophers assistant coach Joe Russell said it is also the wrestler’s reputation and style. Wrestling to a 25-2 record so far this season, Holiday has displayed an ability to intimidate opponents to the point of dysfunction.
“This year I’ve noticed that he’ll be wrestling guys and they’ll be in a position to score easily, but they won’t try anything because they don’t know what he’s going to do next,” Russell said.
A style that could be seen as quirky — flipping, bouncing and careening around the mat — seems to have become Holiday’s greatest wrestling asset. He said when an opponent tries to score off a single-leg takedown, it often backfires.
“I didn’t plan it that way, but they don’t want to do anything to finish it because the majority of the time I score from there,” Holiday said. “They’ll give up things that they would usually go after. It changes their style, and they’re in a position that they aren’t used to wrestling in.”
The offensive mentality is rooted in confidence. Unwilling to compromise his particular mode, Holiday recognizes and reaps the benefits of his individuality.
“I’ve never come across anybody that wrestles like I do,” Holiday said. “I love it, though, because it makes it easier for me. A lot of guys do wrestle similar to each other, so they’re used to wrestling a certain way. Most people are taken by surprise when they wrestle me. I can catch them a lot.”
As the fourth-ranked Gophers continue to gain national recognition, and Holiday continues to succeed, the upcoming years could produce a surge of young wrestlers attempting to emulate Holiday’s wrestling maneuvers.
This weekend, wrestling under unique circumstances, with his unique style, Holiday hopes to bring home something special.
“My ultimate goal would be for me to win and for the team to win,” Holiday said. “Maybe I could get a couple pins for the team or score some big points in the finals. I’d love it. That would be awesome.”