It’s unfortunate for University of Minnesota wrestling fans, but Berge’s heart decided his best option was to leave his home state.
After a long recruiting battle and many sleepless nights, the Kasson-Mantorville senior standout gave his verbal commitment this week to wrestle for the University of Iowa.
Berge was considered the nation’s No. 1 recruit at 195 pounds by several publications. He’s ranked the No. 11 overall recruit in the country by Amateur Wrestling News. With Simley’s Jake Short already committed to Minnesota, Berge was the state’s top remaining prospect.
The Mantorville native is a two-time state champion, and a 2012 USA Junior National Freestyle runner-up.
Berge was perfect last season, going 48-0 with 28 pins on his way to the Class AA state title at 195. He went 40-1 as a sophomore and won the state crown at 189. As a freshman, Berge placed fourth at 189.
About a month ago, Berge said he narrowed his college list to Minnesota and Iowa. Wisconsin and North Dakota State had offered Berge full-ride scholarships, but he said it never was about the money.
Berge visited both Iowa and Minnesota recently. The visit to Iowa went well, Berge said.
“I like (coaches) Tom and Terry Brands a lot,” Berge said. “I will get the same coaching down at Iowa as I do in our room from (former Hawkeye and current K-M co-head coach Jamie Heidt). That was a big pull for Iowa. I got along with the guys really well. Plus, I saw some of their workouts and their intensity and just their overall attitude in the room, and it was the place I needed to be to succeed and win the national titles I’m hoping to get.”
Berge said the recruiting process wore on him. He grew tired of the constant questions. Berge said it got to the point that after school he would go to football practice ” he’s also one of the area’s top running backs ” then go straight home every day, simply to avoid the questions.
“It was stressful. It wasn’t bad stress, but it was still stressful,” Berge said.
Wrestling practice begins in a few weeks, and Berge said he wanted to make his decision immediately so he could focus on the KoMets’ goal of winning a state team title.
Still, the decision was far from easy. Berge said he did feel allegiance to his home state. He said he felt pressure from Minnesota fans, but everything that happened in the recruiting process pointed Berge toward Iowa.
“I liked that Iowa City is a little smaller; I’m from a small town, and it just seems like the Cities would be more stressful and take away from my focus,” Berge said. “With (friends) like (Jake) Short and Nick Wanzek (both of Simley) going to Minnesota, I did feel comfortable there. But Iowa just ended up being the best fit.”
It helped that Terry and Tom Brands made it clear how badly they wanted Berge to be a Hawkeye. Berge said he felt that love right away from the Hawkeyes.
“It came down to me feeling that Iowa was the best place to shape me, not just as a wrestler, but as a person,” Berge said.