As the Gophers’ wrestling schedule jumps from the regular season to the postseason, the team’s everyday preparation is also changing.
Fifth-ranked Minnesota (12-5 overall, 7-1 Big Ten) is having more intense, individually focused practices as its focus becomes the Big Ten tournament, which will take place March 6-7 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Although his strict training schedule led to plenty of success in the Big Ten this season, head coach J Robinson said the team changed the practice regimen leading up to last Friday’s victory over Penn State in the regular-season finale.
“We had some shorter periods when we were wrestling, and we moved our training schedule around to fit more for not only the team, but the individuals,” Robinson said. “There are some individual things, technically, that we want to work on.”
Practices were generally focused on the whole team throughout the regular season. But since last week, they have been segmented to allow for coaches and wrestlers to do more individual training.
“There are certain times to get the team together, but there are certain times to work with guys one-on-one,” Robinson said.
The Gophers have exchanged duration for intensity in practice, said senior Dustin Schlatter (157 pounds).
“Our mindset is ‘shorter, but more intense,’ so we can get in and get out,” he said. “But while we’re in there, it’s 100 percent focus, and we’re going hard.”
Junior heavyweight Ben Berhow said the change in focus for practices comes from the program being built for the goals of Big Ten championships and national titles.
“Intensity is a learned skill,” he said. “We’ve got to take it up a notch here going into the Big Tens, but we’re just going to go through some tough training cycles, take a couple days off, relax and have a little fun, and then get back to work.”
Senior Jayson Ness (133) said that less is more heading into the postseason competition.
“Towards the end of the season, we’ve already put in a ton of work, so you’re not going to be able to add a lot more,” he said. “[By] making the practices shorter, more intense, we’ll be able to get more out of our practice.”
That doesn’t mean the Gophers have backed away from putting in the necessary time.
The wrestlers had a players-only practice following the loss to top-ranked Iowa on Feb. 14.
“Schlatter and Ness took the guys out last Sunday night,” Robinson said. “They kicked it in the butt, and I think it’s going to pay off.”
The wrestlers made no secret that they hope it pays off in the form of championships.
“The team’s goals and my goals are the same,” Schlatter said. “We want to win the Big Ten title and the national title. I think, both for the team and for myself, it is within reach, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
As the team pursues its postseason goals, Schlatter said the new practice routine prevents burnout and keeps wrestlers fresh.
“You want to be excited going into these tournaments,” he said. “This time is for being selfish, I think. Each person is selfish where we can work on what we need. Obviously, the better the individual [performances], the better the team.”
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