One year after arriving in Dinkytown from Illinois, Gophers wrestler Steve Bleise is starting to feel right at home.
Bleise transferred to the University of Minnesota from Northern Illinois last season, which he said was a big transition. This year has been a lot easier.
“This year was a lot smoother than last,” Bleise said. “After being here a full year, I can say that the transition was a lot easier after becoming acclimated to the guys and building a good relationship with the coaching staff.”
Bleise said he ultimately chose Minnesota because of its rich history and traditions. “This is a winning team, they’ve been national champions multiple times,” Bleise said. He also added that he believed Minnesota gave him the best opportunity to reach his full potential.
Last season, Bleise wrestled in the 149-weight class. However, this year, head coach Brandon Eggum and his fellow coaching staff believed Bleise could move up and succeed.
“Last year at 149, he was a big 149-pounder,” Eggum said. He added that he spoke to his fellow coaches last season about the move, coming to the conclusion it would be best for the team moving forward.
Bleise said he was made aware of the change in his weight-class at the end of last season.
Since the switch, Bleise is 12-3 this season, earning him the No.10 ranking in the 157-weight class as of Jan. 30. When asked about Bleise's transition, coach Eggum had a concise response.
“He’s done a great job,” Eggum said. “The thing about Steve is he’s just a tough kid, and I knew coming into this he could compete at any weight class.”
The change has been great, Bleise said. He's constantly happy because he doesn’t worry about his weight as much. “I get to come in and focus on being the best guy I can be without having the cloud of weight over my head,” Bleise said.
Even though it’s the redshirt senior's last year of eligibility, Bleise said he’s putting a little extra into this season.
“I told myself since I’m a senior, you know, this is my last shot, and I want to make every opportunity count,” Bleise said. Most importantly, he wants to, “enjoy [my senior season] and I want to end my career the way I want to remember it.”
Bleise and the rest of the Gophers' return to action Sunday as they host Purdue at Maturi Pavilion.
Erik Nelson contributed to this story.