By the end of wrestling practice, the Gophers’ basement training area is limp from exhaustion. Its cushioned floor is slick with sweat smears, and only the athletes’ jagged panting can slice through the thick, muggy air.
The 90-minute practices are only part of a daily grind for the University of Minnesota’s 44 wrestlers, who equip themselves for competition through a disciplined lifestyle unique to the sport.
Each wrestler maintains a regimen of healthy eating, sleeping and exercising, in hopes of making the most of their seven minutes on the mat.
“Having the lifestyle of a wrestler is getting up super early to do extra lifts. It’s putting in all this extra work,” freshman Carson Brolsma said. “You never know if it’s going to pay off.”
Wrestlers compete in different weight classes to even the playing field, and risk disqualification if they fall outside the class’s parameters within the hour before competition.
Aside from ineligibility, straying from one’s strategy comes with high stakes in a sport where your body is your only tool.
“If you’re not any good in football, you get knocked down in two seconds. If you’re not any good in swimming, they lap you by three laps. If you’re not any good in tennis, they volley past you,” head coach J Robinson said. “But in wrestling, if you’re not any good, you get beat up. You physically get beat up.”
The sport’s special challenges leave wrestlers with a close community and a sense of self-control they say transcends beyond the mat.
A Minnesota Daily photographer followed the Gophers wrestling team from practice to competition, capturing a series of moments that trace the ins and outs of life as a University wrestler.