Kraft brothers enjoying family time in U lineup

Sarah Mitchell

Dan and Brenda Kraft know the true meaning of wrestling as a family sport, as parents of Gophers grapplers Chad and Matt.
The Krafts are one of four sets of brothers on Minnesota’s wrestling team, but are the only starting duo.
“It’s really exciting as a parent,” Brenda said. “I’m a wreck in the stands.”
The Gophers haven’t always had a pair of Krafts in the starting lineup this season. Matt has been working the swing shift, going back and forth between reserve and starter roles.
Junior Delaney Berger started the season as Minnesota’s top 174-pounder, but a nagging shoulder injury — initially sustained at the Great Plains Open in early January — periodically sidelined Berger, allowing Matt to slowly gain experience.
The freshman replaced Berger a week after the open at the National Duals in Iowa City, Iowa. At the preview of the NCAA championships, the younger Kraft went 1-4, winning a 5-3 decision over Augsburg’s Jim Peterson in his first match.
Matt has since battled to a 2-5 mark, but four of his losses came to wrestlers ranked in the top 20.
Against Purdue’s No. 19 James Crnich on Friday, Matt worked his way through a scoreless first period before scoring off an escape halfway though the second period. The Boilermakers senior edged out Matt in the third, however, on his way to a 5-3 victory.
“Obviously, he didn’t believe in himself; he had the guy beaten,” Chad said. “That guy may be ranked 19th, but the thing Matt has to understand is that the guys in our wrestling room are on the same level or better.”
Chad provides a knowledgeable resource for Matt. The senior is the nation’s top-ranked 157-pounder and has experienced defeat only once this season, a 3-2 loss to Oklahoma State senior No. 5 Jimmy Arias during the final round of the National Duals.
In his final season, the veteran Kraft is attempting to become a four-time All-American (the first in Minnesota history) and win his first NCAA individual championship. Chad lost 7-3 in the NCAA finals last season when he tore two ligaments in his ankle early in the title match.
“He’s having an awesome career, I just hope he wins a NCAA championship,” Matt said. “He deserves it, he’s been working hard. He’s always worked hard.”
The Kraft parents are veterans just like Chad, and will spend at least three more seasons in the Gophers wrestling family. While Chad said Matt is making his own path, Brenda said the brothers are there when they need each other. Support seems to be the theme of the Kraft family.
“We’ve been traveling everywhere with them since they were in kindergarten,” Brenda said. “We wouldn’t miss a thing.”