Lang looking to end slump before championships

by David McCoy

Minnesotaís wrestling team responded from its first loss of the season Friday night at Michigan with a dominating show of strength Sunday at Michigan State, winning nine of 10 matches and routing the Spartans 41-3.

The lone downside: 125-pounder Travis Langís 9-2 loss to Nick Simmons. And before that, on Friday night, Lang fell 9-6 to Michael Watts, who came into the match with just a 10-16 record.

But Langís struggles have gone even deeper than that lately, as now heís lost seven of his past 10 matches and his past four in a row.

In fairness, three of Langís past four losses have come against the nationís No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 wrestlers.

But Lang knows that still doesnít cut it. But, in fact, cutting it is exactly whatís causing his problems, he said.

ìI think a big part of it is weight management, learning the right way to make weight,î Lang said. ìItís a lot of little things make a big difference and I never really noticed that until you get out there on the mat and you just have no energy.î

Assistant coach Joe Russell said Langís weight-cutting methods cost him Fridayís match to Watts, a wrestler Lang definitely should have beaten.

Itís not that heís having trouble making weight, Russell said. Itís that Lang is doing it in a way that leaves him without energy.

ìHe makes weight fine,î Russell said. ì(But) weíd prefer him to do it the way we think works for college guys and he tries to do it the way he did it in high school. For us, youíve got to work your weight off, youíve got to keep eating, youíve got to keep doing that kind of stuff.

ìAnd instead, a lot of times itís easier to just not eat so you donít have to work out. And you donít have enough energy. And I think on Friday night it was the weight cutting that got in the way and he didnít have the energy he needed to finish the match off correctly.î

In high school in Bismarck, N.D., Lang won four state championships as an individual and led his team to four-straight state titles.

But the competition in college just isnít the same. And as only a redshirt freshman, Lang is learning that the hard way.

ìYou can get away with it when the competition isnít this elite, but at this level, the margin for error is so slim youíve got to do everything right,î Russell said. ìYouíve got to eat right, sleep right, get prepared correctly for the match. And if youíre cutting corners, the margin of error is so slim it can come back and bite you.î

Russell said despite losing 9-2 to third-ranked Simmons on Sunday, the entire team was impressed with Langís effort at the end of the match.

When he scored a reversal with the score 9-0 to prevent Michigan State from gaining a bonus point, Russell said all the Gophers, including Lang, cheered as Lang came off the mat.

Russell said Langís strong finish was the result of managing his weight the right way going into Sunday.

ìGetting ready for Sunday, he made some changes ó worked out a lot harder so he could eat a little bit more, get some energy, and when he got out there I think it showed in his performance,î Russell said.

ìI think he believes what weíre telling him is the truth, itís just harder to do it sometimes, itís harder to be more disciplined. A lot of times you can cut corners and get away with it, but that little extra discipline is going to go a long way to make the difference in matches.î

Lang knows he has a lot to learn about college wrestling. Making weight the right way is just part of it. But for now, itís still the biggest obstacle preventing him from winning and is, first and foremost, the challenge heís looking to overcome.

ìIím learning,î Lang said. ìIím young and Iím getting help from my coaches on my diet and what I should be eating and what I shouldnít be eating. And once I get that under control, Iím pretty confident Iíll be pretty hard to beat.î