Gophers wrestle to six titles

by Sarah Mitchell

For senior wrestler Josh Holiday, exhaustion crept in early Saturday, as the 165-pounder found himself feeling less energized than normal following his second match at the Great Plains Open in Lincoln, Neb.
But the Gophers wrestler didn’t earn his fourth-place rank in national polls by allowing weary limbs to control his mind.
“Just knowing in the back of your head that you trained harder, spent more practicing moves and that you deserve it more, makes you tougher than your opponent,” Holiday said. “You get tired, but you know that other guy is more tired. It gets to the point where you know the other guy is more tired and you almost smell blood.”
Holiday went 4-0 at Saturday’s tournament, padding his overall record to 16-1 and claiming one of six titles for the 2nd-ranked Gophers. In the championship round, Holiday decisioned Iowa State junior Todd Buckland 7-3.
“In the finals, I could hear the guy breathing hard,” Holiday said. “I was tired, too, but he was breathing so hard that I knew I could get him.”
Holiday and the rest of the Gophers’ appearance was due to the last-second meet addition, a result of a failed attempt to reschedule the Jan. 2 home dual meet against No. 6 Iowa State. The competition was cancelled due to weather, a move Gophers coach J Robinson said could have been avoided if the Cyclones had made the trip on Jan. 1.
Because of the debacle, Robinson said Iowa State cost Minnesota’s program around $30,000. For this reason, unless Iowa State is willing to make up for this financial loss, Robinson said the Gophers have opted to look elsewhere for competition.
“To me, it’s bad for wrestling,” Robinson said. “Iowa [State]’s president and athletic director did not make (Cyclones coach Bobby Douglas) honor his agreement. We won’t wrestle Iowa State again.”
To avoid losing mat time, Minnesota entered the tournament, using it as one last chance to retool as the team prepares to put its rank on the line this weekend at the national duals in Iowa City. Minnesota last wrestled on Dec. 13.
“When you’re looking ahead three weeks and nothing’s happening it gets long,” Holiday said. “Sometimes you start to lack confidence and lose enthusiasm for wrestling.”
Wrestling for the first time as a Division I competitor, it might have been Brock Lesnar who needed the confidence boost. The junior transfer became eligible for competition on Jan. 4 and immediately claimed the heavyweight spot.
On Saturday, Lesnar stepped onto the mat sporting a Minnesota singlet for the first time. The newest Gopher survived until the final round where he lost to Iowa State senior Trent Hynek.
“You can’t stand around,” Robinson said. “You have to be more intense. It’s a good thing he found that out before this weekend, though.”
With Lesnar on the roster, Robinson’s team enters national duals wanting to find where the team stands nationally. The upcoming tournament should indicate which team will pose the biggest threat in mid-March at the NCAA championships.
“The competition will be stronger this weekend,” Holiday said. “Guys are going to have tougher matches. The team has to depend on these guys to win those more competitive matches.”