Lone senior is model for U wrestling team

Allison Younge

Nick Antila, the lone senior on the Gophers wrestling team, has proven himself to his teammates and coaches to be among the hardest working wrestlers on the squad.
“Nick’s work ethic is something to be in awe of,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “To him, wrestling is the sun, and everything else revolves around it.”
Antila, a 134-pounder, started for the Gophers last season and produced a 19-3 overall record. This season, he was replaced by sophomore Troy Marr.
“I’m not going to pull any punches,” Antila said. “It was a huge disappointment for me, but I wasn’t about to walk away from my teammates and coaches. Sometimes things just don’t happen the way you want them to, but life moves on.”
Sunday’s match against Ohio State marks Antila’s last regular season home match with the Gophers. Minnesota (15-4) takes on the Buckeyes at 2:30 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion.
As a freshman, Antila came to the Gophers program alongside teammates Brandon Paulson and Zac Taylor. Both Paulson and Taylor were involved with Olympic commitments last season, so they did not compete for the Gophers, but they’ve known Antila’s relentless work ethic all the way through.
“Nick’s the hardest working guy I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Paulson said. “If everyone is working out twice a day, Nick comes in and works out three times — it seems like he lives in the practice room.”
This season, four wrestlers were in competition for the 134-pound weight class. Antila wrestled for the Gophers in an early match against Iowa State before Marr stepped up to claim the weight in the permanent lineup.
Even though Antila isn’t part of the lineup this season, he plays an important role in working out with his teammates and pushing them to improve through his solid example.
As a senior at Robbinsdale Cooper High School, Antila placed 5th in the state tournament and decided to go to Iowa and tryout for the Hawkeyes. The Minnesota coaches caught word of this, and offered Antila a chance to wrestle for the Gophers.
“I was a member of the Gophers booster club, and the night Minnesota called, I thought they were calling about dues or something,” Antila said. “They said they could offer me anything Iowa could — all it took was that one phone call.”
Many people doubted whether or not Antila would survive in the rigid Gophers program. After five years (he redshirted his first year), he has not only survived, but is regarded by his peers and coaches as the hardest working wrestler on the team.
“A lot of people told Nick that he shouldn’t wrestle here, that he’d have a better chance at a smaller school,” assistant coach Marty Morgan said. “That became his biggest motivation, to prove those people wrong.”
But Antila, well aware of the ruthless reputation of the Gophers, wanted to be at Minnesota. He endured his share of hard times, but his motivation for improvement combined with his love for wrestling have always prevailed.
“When I was a freshman, I was kicked around everyday,” Antila said. “And everyday I’d come in hoping to do one thing right. Then, the next day I’d work to do two things right, any little step was improvement.”
Antila’s highlight finally came last year when he earned the starting spot at 134-pounds. In his fourth year with the Gophers, Antila had broken through.
“The whole experience here has been memorable,” Antila said. “I never won a big match that sticks out in my mind, but being part of the starting lineup was the best.”
Throughout his years with the Gophers, Antila has distinguished himself as a team player. And Sunday’s match against Ohio State marks Antila’s last regular season home match with the Gophers. Minnesota (15-4) takes on the Buckeyes at 2:30 in the Sports Pavilion.

Note: Antila will not pursue his intended major of entomology and lycanthropy studies (the study of bugs and werewolves) as reported in the Gophers media guide. He plans to enter law enforcement, but thought the invented major would add a little spice to the media guide.
Sporting his favorite bright orange Tide hat, Antila flashed a grin and said, “Everyone is so honest in the media guide; I just wanted to throw something cool in there.”