Minnesota is planning a celebration this afternoon at Williams Arena.
The school is honoring wrestling coach J Robinson for 25 years with the Gophers — a tenure in which Minnesota has gone from the Big Ten basement to three NCAA titles.
The Gophers will have a ceremony for Robinson before the 2 p.m. dual against Iowa.
“You stay around long enough and not get fired and they give you a poster or something,” Robinson joked this week.
Make no mistake, this is not a retirement party for Robinson. He agreed to a contract extension earlier this season that runs through the 2014 season. It’s the first time in Robinson’s career that he has worked with a multi-year deal.
“We have pretty good kids and they have good attitudes and they’re hard workers, and I like being around them,” he said. “They keep you young.”
The second-ranked Hawkeyes (14-0-1, 7-0 Big Ten) hope the No. 5 Gophers (15-3-1, 6-0-1) are only celebrating Robinson’s tenure today and not a Big Ten dual title, too.
Iowa has won 31 consecutive conference duals since losing to the Gophers in 2007. The Hawkeyes have a string of 76 consecutive duals without a defeat — a run that has Robinson’s attention for various reasons.
Oklahoma State holds the NCAA record for the longest unbeaten streak at 84. Robinson was a sophomore with the Cowboys in 1966 when that seven-year run without a defeat came to an end.
“If we don’t beat them,” Robinson said, “there’s nobody that’s going to be on their schedule in the first eight duals of (next) year that’s going to beat them. It’s another fun thing to draw into it.”
The dual is compelling by itself. Eight matches could feature ranked wrestlers going head-to-head, highlighted by the showdown at 141 pounds between Iowa’s third-ranked Montell Marion and Minnesota’s No. 2 Mike Thorn.
Assuming the dual starts at 125 pounds, the last five matches look like toss-ups on paper. Coaches are allowed to skip the draw for the first weight if both coaches agree on the starting point. Brands opposes the draw and said he has never voted in favor of a draw and he said Robinson is “old school” like that as well.
“I’m a fan of J Robinson,” Brands said. “But when it’s on the mat, we’re going after the same thing.”
Robinson was a longtime assistant to Dan Gable at Iowa before taking over at Minnesota in 1986. During his early years with the Gophers, he recruited a pair of hard-nosed twins from Sheldon, but finished second to Gable. Tom and Terry Brands signed with the Hawkeyes.
“He tells you like it is,” Brands said. “If you don’t like it and your feelings are hurt, then tough. (He’s an) at-least-you-know-where-I-stand type of guy, and I relate to that. I probably could’ve gotten along with him pretty good in a coach-athlete relationship.”
But Brands and Robinson are going after the same thing today. There’s a dual win, the Border Brawl belt and a Big Ten title on the line.
“They’re going to have their team ready,” Brands said. “This isn’t going to be an ambush.”
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