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Minnesota Gophers Wrestling: Public Practice [video]

June 28th, 2012 by Tom

St. Cloud Boxing and Wrestling Club aims to aid training

December 30th, 2011 by Tom

Group: St. Cloud Boxing and Wrestling Club.

Wrestling Club


Origins: According to Scott Kelm, owner and operator of the Downtown Gym in St. Cloud, the Boxing and Wrestling Club began with regular meet-ups in the St. Cloud State University wrestling room in 1983. Seven years later, the group added boxing to the mix, and after appealing an initially rejected application for tax exemption, the group achieved 501(c)3 status in May 1997.

Mission and motivation: In addition to the exercise, Kelm said the motivation for the club is similar to any athletic endeavor: "To play, have fun, to learn."

"It's like pop " 7UP, Pepsi. People love choice," he said. The club provides another option for youths and amateur athletes interested in learning, staying in shape and competing, Kelm said.

"It isn't so much to teach the talented individuals but the people who come in with no knowledge," he said, adding that the thrice-weekly workouts teach both mental and physical discipline " to the athletes and the coaches.

Location: Workouts take place from 7-8:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Downtown Gym, 220 Seventh Ave. S, St. Cloud.

Affiliations: The club operates matches and membership under USA Wrestling and USA Boxing, national governing bodies for those respective amateur sports. Kelm said this allows the club to host sanctioned tournaments and secure insurance for participants.

Members: Kelm said the club is open to virtually any interested athletes from the first grade past college age, male and female. Competitions start with 9-year-olds, he said, and all practices have parent supervision.

Membership numbers vary, Kelm said, but the sports remain popular. Close to 30 people showed up for Thursday practice this past week, and at one time, Kelm said he was coaching almost a dozen girls in wrestling.

To participate, Kelm said athletes must pay a membership fee depending on their sport. That yearly fee, $35 for USA Wrestling and $50 for USA Boxing, provides a blanket insurance policy for the athletes, he said.

Community function: "A true volunteer organization, even if there's no money there, you try to keep the program going," Kelm said. The club's budget is healthy, he said, and even if potential athletes are strapped for cash, they are welcome.

"If you have no money and come to us, we will take you in," he said, adding that the charitable nature of the club extends to its attitudes toward athletics in general.

A recent interview with a Mixed Martial Arts athlete rubbed Kelm the wrong way, he said. While the popularity of MMA is a fine thing in itself, according to Kelm, the highlighted athlete's language and attitude was a bit sour.

"Violence and trash talk " that's not sport," he said. The club looks to promote healthy competition and an open, comfortable atmosphere, and that's obvious by looking at all the help volunteers provide for the athletes, Kelm said.

"Democracy rules in its truest form in a nonprofit," he said, adding that if people didn't pitch in, the club wouldn't exist.

Upcoming events: The first snowstorm of this winter postponed the club's first Golden Gloves boxing show, with a Wisconsin group even getting stranded in Hinckley, Kelm said. Those matches will happen in February.

Matches will take place throughout the winter, Kelm said, with the Golden Gloves regional boxing tournament scheduled for April 14 and 15 in Walker.

Funding: The club receives funding from three main sources, Kelm said, with each revenue source split almost evenly. Dues from members and donations account for about two-thirds of the club's revenue stream. The remaining 33 percent arrives via charitable gambling with pull-tab boxes at Gary's Tavern in Foley, Space Aliens in Waite Park and Gilman Liquor.

Membership for youth members, classified as participants younger than 17, is $20 per month, and for 17-year-old members and up, the fee is $30. This includes the three instruction periods per week and full access to Downtown Gym, Kelm said.

For information: Call the Downtown Gym at 654-0202.

Boxing Club

Website will help lure amateur sports in Minnesota

September 25th, 2011 by Tom

By Ben Boldt

Sports marketing is getting some attention from the state department of tourism, Explore Minnesota. In a few weeks a new segment to the www.exploreminnesota.com Website will launch. It will be all about sports.

The goal of this new initiative is to present Minnesota as an amateur sports destination. It will list many of the venues from across the state in an easy-to-navigate way for any organization interested in hosting an event in Minnesota. The listings will include venue details, contact information, photos and videos. The site will integrate some of Minnesota's most popular attractions to the page so the viewer can get a more complete idea of what Minnesota has to offer. The Rochester Amateur Sports Commission has already done the legwork of gathering venue data from our area of the state and submitting it to this project.

Along with the new presence on the Website, sports will also gain some marketing power in other areas. Minnesota cities will have an opportunity to co-op with the state in their sales and marketing efforts. The agency is also looking to have a presence at sports event conferences that the RASC already attends like the National Association of Sports Commissions Symposium and the TEAMS Conference. This will hopefully lead to more exposure and interaction with the national governing bodies and their staff members who select host cities for their events.

We have seen this type of unified state marketing for a few years at the conferences we attend. Other states have achieved this objective in a wide array of ways such as giving cities access to marketing resources and awarding monetary grants to cities that bring in new events to the state. Minnesota is planning to use some of these ideas to help cities in their pursuit of sports travel business.

The Sports Commission is excited to see how this new initiative can help us be more successful. After all, the bottom line is that when the cities of Minnesota are successful the state economy will feel the positive effects.

Upcoming events:
MN Youth Soccer Fall State Tournament: October 14-16
Exchange Club Volleyball Tournament: October 21-22
Intermat JJ Wrestling Classic: October 21-23

National powers now look up to Apple Valley at No. 1

January 10th, 2011 by Tom

The Eagles handled a traditionally strong Florida team to claim the title in the prestigious Clash.

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune

ROCHESTER - It's repeated so often that it would be difficult for even the most cynical of souls to dispute it. It's Apple Valley's mantra, nothing special or overly clever, but it carries a weight of its own

"We work harder than anybody else, "Apple Valley senior Matt Kelliher said. "That's what we always say. No team is going to work harder than us."

That work ethic, which has paid off in 18 state championships, was evident Saturday as the Eagles won the championship bracket of The Clash Duals wrestling meet at the University Center in Rochester.

More importantly, Apple Valley's victory virtually assured the Eagles of the first undisputed national high school wrestling championship in Minnesota history. And they did it in style, beating perhaps the most legendary high school wrestling program in the country, Brandon, Fla., 34-16 in the finals.

The national title is determined by the voting in three national polls, released by the Amateur Wrestling News, Intermat.com and theopenmat.com.

While no official national champion is crowned, Apple Valley is the unanimous selection at No. 1 in all three rankings. The Eagles' victory in the Clash -- their fourth consecutive title in the most prestigious dual-meet event in the nation -- concludes the national portion of their schedule. Clearly a cut, or even two, above the rest of the Class 3A field, it would take the unthinkable for Apple Valley to fail to win its sixth state championship in a row.

"We just have to finish is out, "Apple Valley coach Jim Jackson said. "We have to win the state championship."

The Clash final may have been the most anticipated showdown in the meet's nine-year history. Brandon has long been considered the Babe Ruth of prep wrestling, a program that won 459 consecutive matches between 1974 and 2008. Brandon's streak stands as the longest winning streak any U.S. high school team has produced. It even was the topic of an ESPN documentary titled "The Streak."

It was the prospect of facing Apple Valley that lured Brandon to Minnesota in the dead of winter.

"We wanted a shot at Apple Valley, but they were better than us today, "Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "Apple Valley deserved to be No. 1. That's a very solid, very aggressive team."

Being ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4 in the nation, depending on what poll is doing the ranking, Brandon was looked upon as perhaps the only team in the country that could give Apple Valley a battle. It was just such a prospect that drove the Eagles.

"This is what we've been preparing for all season, "said junior 140-pounder Brandon Kingsley. "I've been wrestling in the Apple Valley program for 12 or 13 years and this is the best team I've ever been on."

Kingsley got the Eagles' championship quest started by pinning Giovanni Dudley in the first minute of their 140-pound match, giving Apple Valley a quick 6-0 lead.

The Eagles expanded their margin gradually, winning four consecutive decisions from 145 pound to 171 pounds, building up an insurmountable 18-0 lead before Brandon finally got on the board with a victory at 189.

The remainder of the match was basically a foregone conclusion as Apple Valley built its lead on the strength of its lower weights.

"This means a lot to our program, "Jackson said. "It means al lot to our coaches and the people involved with the programs. And it justifies all of the work we put in in the offseason. We always say we work harder than anyone else. Who really knows if we actually do? But the kids believe it and it the kids believe it, that's all that matters."

Minnesota wrestlers climb into the cage

November 15th, 2010 by Tom

Minnesota Wrestlers

With heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar as a role model, college wrestlers are finding that mixed martial arts gives them a chance to compete and make money after school.

By MYRON P. MEDCALF, Star Tribune

When Division I football coaches called, Joel Bauman listened. But the sport didn't fit into his plan -- to become the greatest fighter in the world.

So Bauman, who rushed for 2,941 yards as a high school junior at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg in west-central Minnesota in 2008, pursued his other love -- wrestling.

The Gophers freshman, a two-time prep state champion, would love to earn a few titles in college, but he ultimately chose the sport because he said he believes it will prepare him for a career in mixed martial arts (MMA).

It's a familiar path through an expanding pipeline for Minnesota-based wrestlers who strive to emulate the success of former Gophers star and current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar.

"It's really cool because it just gives you hope that there's something out there, "Bauman said about Lesnar's accomplishments in MMA. "I love wrestling and it's my passion, but in the back of my mind I always have, 'Be the best fighter, be the best fighter.'"

Lesnar, who defends his crown against former All-America wrestler Cain Velasquez at UFC 121 Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., has always credited his amateur wrestling background for his success.

"In wrestling, there's so much involved, there's a lot of wrestling in the cage, in the Octagon, "Lesnar said during Wednesday's prefight news conference. "Wrestling is the backbone, I believe, in this sport."

The multitude of wrestlers dominating MMA proves as much.

Randy Couture, a former Olympic alternate and collegiate standout, sparked the movement more than a decade ago. His rise to champion in multiple divisions inspired a generation of wrestlers to climb into the cage.

Sean Sherk, a St. Francis native who started wrestling when he was 7, won the UFC's lightweight title in 2006 and remains a top contender. And Minneapolis' Dave Menne, who wrestled for Iowa, was the UFC's first middleweight champion in 2001.

Roger Huerta, who wrestled for Augsburg, fights for Bellator Fighting Championships, a Florida-based operation that airs fights on Fox Sports Network. Former Gophers All-America Jacob Volkmann joined the UFC last year and Nik Lentz, another former Gophers wrestler, quit school to pursue a pro fighting career.

But Lesnar's transition to MMA three years ago helped spur interest among some younger wrestlers.

Konrad turns to MMA

After winning back-to-back NCAA titles, Cole Konrad didn't have a lot of appealing career options. His attempts to continue competing after his decorated Gophers career -- including a tryout with the New York Jets -- fell flat.

Then he found his way to MMA. Konrad, who trains with Lesnar in Alexandria, Minn., earned $100,000 after winning Bellator's heavyweight tournament earlier this month. He said MMA offers wrestlers a chance to compete and make money after college.

Before MMA, Konrad said, you'd work hard, achieve success "and the next day, it's no longer there. It's gone."

Alec Ortiz, a Gophers redshirt freshman who has trained with MMA standouts Chael Sonnen and Matt Lindland, said he understands that he has limited opportunities to wrestle after college, so he's already thinking about an MMA career.

"I'm going to wrestle for as long as I can, be competitive, try to make Olympic teams, but I've seen wrestlers make really good transition to mixed marital arts, so I'd like to try that out and see how I fare, "Ortiz said.

Wrestlers have the skills

Seasoned wrestlers know how to control matches. They're conditioned for long fights. Multiple rounds don't scare them. They are masters at dictating pace. And they develop high-level cardiovascular strength at an early age.

"You've got all these martial arts ... but as soon as you get on the ground, everything changes, "Gophers coach J Robinson said.

Marty Morgan was entrenched in Gophers wrestling as a top assistant when Lesnar asked his former coach to lead his MMA training two years ago.

Morgan said he has seen an increase in the number of young wrestlers who want to pursue mixed martial arts.

"I know amateur wrestling has been hoping for that and they're trying to kind of hook themselves to it a little bit, "Morgan said.

Bauman might represent that new breed of wrestlers.

Some coaches and wrestlers envision a future in which pro MMA operations become the natural destination for the best wrestlers.

"Wrestling has never had a pro facet to it and that's what MMA is becoming, "Robinson said.

And that's exactly why Bauman joined the Gophers.

"Oh yeah, that's my dream, "he said. "Be the best fighter in the world. That's what I tell these guys all the time."

InterMat announces creation of JJ Classic

August 23rd, 2010 by Tom

JJ Classic Wrestling

National preseason high school event set for October 23 in Rochester, MN

Visit Official Site of InterMat JJ Classic

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- Wrestlers from across the nation have had the opportunity to compete in prestigious postseason wrestling tournaments for years. Now wrestlers in grades 7-12, their families and fans can get the upcoming season off to a winning start, with a new elite, preseason open wrestling tournament.

The tournament: InterMat JJ Classic, which is set to take place on Saturday, October 23, 2010 at the UCR Regional Sports Center in Rochester, Minnesota.

The InterMat JJ Classic promises to be loaded with national talent. Hundreds of wrestlers in grades 7-12 are expected to participate. There will be 32-wrestler brackets for each of the 14 standard high school weight classes from 103 through 285 pounds. Because of the event's location, the InterMat JJ Classic is expected to attract top high school wrestling talent from across the Midwest. However, the tournament is open to wrestlers from all across the United States.

The tournament is sponsored by InterMat, the nation's leading amateur wrestling Web site. The UCR Regional Sports Center in Rochester, Minnesota has served as the venue for major amateur wrestling events such as The Clash, Minnesota Christmas Tournament, Northern Quad, Cadet National Duals, and the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Wrestling Championships. The event is being organized by 360 Sports and Events Agency, a sports management company headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota that specializes in organizing, coordinating, and operating national sport-themed events, including the All American Bowl and the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic.

The InterMat JJ Classic is destined to become one of the premier preseason high school wrestling events in the country, joining two other pre-eminent, national preseason high school wrestling events that take place in October: Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, North Carolina, and USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Both of these tournaments are scheduled for the weekend after the InterMat JJ Classic, allowing high school wrestlers the possibility of competing in more than one elite open tournament.

"Bringing a high-level preseason high school wrestling event to Minnesota, specifically Rochester, was very important to us, "said Andrew Hipps, owner and senior writer for Minneapolis-based InterMat. "Rochester hosts some of the finest wrestling events in the country. We felt there was a definite need for a national preseason high school wrestling event because of the abundance of high school wrestling talent scattered all throughout the Midwest."

The InterMat JJ Classic is named in honor of Justin Kukowski, an athlete and avid sports fan -- and best friend of Hipps -- who lost his long, hard-fought battle with brain cancer days after his 27th birthday. JJ -- as he was known to friends -- was a wrestling fan; in fact, the last major sports event he attended was the 2006 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City. (Visit JJ's blog.)

Proceeds for the InterMat JJ Classic will go to the cancer support center, the Justin Kukowski Center for Spiritual and Physical Healing, which opened in his memory two years after his passing, and is located in the Minneapolis suburb of Chaska.

"JJ was the kindest, most selfless person I've ever known, "disclosed Hipps, who had known Kukowski since the age of 5. "He made everyone he came in contact with feel important. There are so many things about JJ that made him special and unique, but the thing that stands out the most in my mind is the way he treated other people. He didn't have a negative bone in his body."

The event

The InterMat JJ Classic kicks off with weigh-ins Friday, October 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. CT at the Kahler Grand Hotel -- the official tournament hotel -- located at 20 SW Second Avenue in downtown Rochester. After weigh-ins, wrestlers, coaches, and their families are invited to a meet & greet at the Kahler Grand Hotel.

The actual one-day tournament begins at 9 a.m. at the UCR Regional Sports Center in Rochester. Competition, open to wrestlers in grades 7-12, will be held in 14 traditional high school weight classes: 103, 112, 119, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 152, 160, 171, 189, 215, and 285 pounds, with no weight allowance.

The InterMat JJ Classic will be set up using 32-wrestler brackets. Twelve wrestlers in each weight will be seeded. Brackets will be set up in a double elimination format, with wrestlebacks to eighth place. The top eight placers in each weight class will receive awards. In addition, each of the 28 finalists will receive custom, limited edition InterMat JJ Classic singlets.

The matches will be wrestled scholastic style. Each match in the championship bracket will be three periods -- two minutes in the first; second and third periods will be one minute each. In the consolation bracket, there will be three one-minute periods.

The registration fee for the 2010 InterMat JJ Classic is $40 for wrestlers and $40 for coaches. Payment is due at the time of registration.

For more information on the InterMat JJ Classic and to register online, visit Official Site of InterMat JJ Classic.

InterMat is a leading national wrestling Web site that covers all aspects of amateur wrestling, including high school, college, freestyle and Greco-Roman competition, as well as mixed martial arts. The content includes updated recruiting information and profiles, news, event coverage, rankings and results, along with unique content features such as exclusive athlete profile stories, Q&As, historical features on legendary wrestlers and coaches, and hard-hitting analysis of major issues affecting amateur wrestling. InterMat works in conjunction with ESPN RISE and the Big Ten Network and has twice been named Web Site of the Year by the National Wrestling Media Association.

360 Sports and Events Agency is a sports management company that specializes in organizing, coordinating, and operating national sport-themed events, including the All American Bowl and the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic.

Wrestler With Down Syndrome Inspires Others

January 14th, 2010 by Tom

ST. CROIX, Minn. - A little boy from Stillwater is inspiring hundreds of wrestlers in his community. The boy with special needs hasn't let his disability slow him down or keep him from wrestling the best.

Dillon Hill, a 9-year-old with Down syndrome, started wrestling at St. Croix Valley Athletic Association a year ago.

Hill started working with the Coach Chris Bahl's to learn the ins and outs of the sport.

NCAA: Olympian/U of Minnesota’s Deitchler Ruled Ineligible For Season

January 14th, 2010 by Tom

University of Minnesota freshman wrestler and former Olympian, Jake Deitchler has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the 2009-10 academic year.

The University of Minnesota received initial notice in September and appealed the ruling hoping for a review of the situation. Deitchler has not competed for the Gophers this season, while awaiting the results of the final appeal. Deitchler's eligibility will be reinstated under the conditions that he is withheld from competition for the 2009-10 academic year, forfeit a year of eligibility and repay the $4,000 prize money he received.

A 2008 graduate of Anoka High School and an Anoka, Minn. native, Deitchler represented the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Following the Olympics, Deitchler spent the 2008-09 academic year training and competing full-time with USA Wrestling at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"In the NCAA's ongoing effort to promote student-athlete welfare I do not think the NCAA is following or supporting their own ideology. The NCAA has handed a very young student athlete an overly harsh penalty, "head wrestling coach J Robinson said. "The punishment is quite severe and is a three part penalty. First; Deitchler must sit out a year, second he will lose one of his four years of eligibility, and third he must repay the money he received.

I understand that there needs to be a penalty, Robinson said but to deny a season of competition, take away an entire year of eligibility plus repay the money is excessive. People make mistakes, and as an 18 year-old kid who just represented his country in the Olympic Games and got lost in the moment I don't think this decision is in the best interest of the athlete, the NCAA, or the Olympic movement."

Robinson went on to add, "We had a very similar situation at Minnesota a few years ago where an athlete took money after the Olympics, in this case more money $6,000. The penalty the NCAA imposed was that the student athlete had to sit out two weeks and repay the money. That same year, this student athlete was eligible to compete in the NCAA Championships and became an NCAA All-American."

Deitchler will remain on the team and participate in all team practices, but cannot compete in 2009-10 for the University of Minnesota in any NCAA sanctioned events.

This is bigger than Jake Deitchler and I think it hurts our Olympic movement by setting a bad precedence. Robinson hopes that the NCAA will review and reverse their decision in the spirit of student athlete welfare and what best for a young student athlete that got caught up in the excitement of the Olympic Games while representing his country.

Robinson also said that Mario Mason has been reinstated and will resume competition with the team. Mason had been suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules, causing him to miss the Southern Scuffle and the Iowa State Dual.

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A Detour Home: Ryland Geiger Leaves Gophers for Community Col in Oregon

October 31st, 2009 by Tom

When news surfaced in September that Ryland Geiger was leaving the University of Minnesota, it was more than just a small blip on the radar for the Gopher faithful.

The 19-year-old Geiger, who was one of the nation's top recruits from the Class of 2008, was expected to make an immediate impact at 197 pounds for a young and talented Gopher team looking to get back to the top of the college wrestling world after coming off its worst NCAA finish (14th) since 1996.

Great expectations had been placed on the broad shoulders of Geiger after a prep career that saw him capture two Oregon (OSAA) state titles and win titles at prestigious high school events such as NHSCA Nationals, Cadet Nationals, and Junior Nationals. He was ranked No. 1 in the country at 189 pounds by InterMat.

Last season, as a redshirt for the Gophers, Geiger compiled a 19-3 record while competing in open tournaments. In the spring, Geiger won both the FILA Junior Nationals and FILA World Team Trials in freestyle to earn a spot on the Junior World Team. Geiger, though, chose not to compete at the Junior World Championships in Ankara, Turkey in August, and instead opted to stay in Minneapolis and focus on his summer term courses at Minnesota.

Toward the end of summer, Geiger made the decision to leave Minnesota and head back home to wrestle at Clackamas Community College in Oregon. He says it was "a little bit of everything "that caused him to leave Minnesota, but "mostly academics."

"Everybody is going to be a little bitter that I left Minnesota, "said Geiger. "I'm bitter. They're bitter. It sucks that I had to leave, but I'm pretty sure we ended things on a good note."

Geiger's journey over the past 10 years could be best described as nomadic. His father, David, is in the military. Geiger grew up in Virginia, moved to Korea in middle school, spent his freshman year in the Philippines, moved back to the U.S. for his sophomore year and attended Blair Academy in New Jersey, and then moved to Oregon for his final two years of high school.

In high school, Geiger was recruited by many of the nation's top college wrestling programs. He chose Minnesota over Lehigh, Arizona State, and Oregon State because of the combination of coaches, workout partners, facilities, and the fact that his best friend from his days at Blair Academy, Mario Mason, was also going to be wrestling for the Gophers.

Then-Minnesota head assistant coach Marty Morgan played a key role in recruiting Geiger to Minnesota. Geiger expected Morgan to not only be one of his coaches, but also serve as a key training partner throughout his college wrestling career. But shortly before the college wrestling season began, Morgan resigned as the head assistant coach of the Gophers to train current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

"I was pretty shocked, "said Geiger of Morgan's resignation. "We all had no idea that he was leaving. It was our understanding that he was going to be the coach. It was kind of terrible because he left and he has all that knowledge. It's good for him. I can't be mad at the guy. He's helping out probably the baddest man alive right now."

Continue Reading at InterMat

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J Robinson Goes To Iraq To Train, Thank Troops

October 31st, 2009 by WrestlingPod

Coach J Robinson teaching troops wrestling moves.

COB BASRA, Iraq - Who is Coach J Robinson?

Robinson has had an illustrious career as an Army Ranger during the Vietnam War, an Olympic wrestler and one of the greatest coaches in University of Minnesota history.

Robinson demonstrated his bravery by telling a roomful of military policemen how he listens to Britney Spears and Lady Gaga to get motivated.

Robinson is also caring. He flew to Iraq recently to motivate the troops and when he learned the government wasn't going to pay his way, he was perfectly willing to fly halfway around world on his own dime.

All to offer a simple "Thank you."

"When the chaplain called and asked if I could come, I thought it was the least I could do, "said Robinson, who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005. "I was sitting at home, and you know what that's like. It's pretty good. Sometimes you don't realize that until you leave."

Robinson visited troops all over Contingency Operating Base Basra, at each stop encouraging Soldiers and telling them to embrace their deployment as a learning experience.

"The lessons you learn in Iraq will follow you for the rest of your lives, "said Robinson, who attended Airborne, Jungle Warfare and Ranger school before deploying to Vietnam. "I'm more proud to be a Ranger than I am being an Olympian, because the lessons I learned there I've used for the rest of life."

Robinson, a member of the 1972 Olympic wrestling team, addressed Soldiers on the importance of perspective, concentration, and the power of choice and striving for excellence in everything they do.

In addition, Robinson told the Soldiers that someday they would be able to look back at their time in Iraq and be proud of the people they had helped, even those they had not known they helped.

"One thing you learn as a coach, you do a lot of stuff and you touch a lot of people, and you might never see it, "said Robinson. "You're not always going to get that pat on the back."

Robinson's busy schedule included wrestling classes with the 34th Military Police Company. The coach of three team national titles instructed the MP's on hand placement and balance; "the fundamentals, "said the seven-time Big Ten Coach of the Year.

"It's part of his striving for excellence, "said Lt. Col. Jeffery Johnson, Inspector General for the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and an alumnus of the U of M. "A, giving thanks from the state of Minnesota, and B, helping the MP's strive for excellence."

While Robinson could only visit for a few days, his visit was appreciated up to the highest levels.

"Soldiers want to know three things: to know that their folks back home are alright, that life back home is going normally, and that folks back home are thinking of them, "said Brig. Gen. David Eliciero, deputy commanding general of the 34th Inf. Div., and U of M Class of 1980. "I think this accomplishes that."

So who is Coach J Robinson? A Ranger? An Olympian? A Hall of Fame wrestling coach?

For a while in COB Basra, the answer was simple: a legend, an old Soldier, a man willing to come back out to the front to show his gratitude to the Soldiers personally.

"For me, I have to come out here to say thanks, "said Robinson.

Pictures and video here.

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