Kupchella interview: Gopher wrestling coach J Robinson


Since taking over the University of Minnesota wrestling program in 1986, head coach J Robinson has led the team to an impressive number of victories, including the first three national championships in Gopher history.

Robinson, a former Olympian and Olympic coach, told BringMeTheNews Founder and CEO Rick Kupchella at a Smile Network event Thursday that he prides himself on a program that's helping young athletes become leaders on and off the mat.

Every summer for the last 36 years, Robinson has run a youth development camp for high school age wrestlers in Minnesota and multiple other states.

The camp is based on seven core principles or what Robinson calls "a formula" for success: discipline, dedication, sacrifice, hard work, responsibility accountability and service.

"A lot of parents want their kids to be leaders, but you can't be a leader until you know where you're going. And you can't know where you're going until you know who you are," Robinson said. "We try to answer these questions at camp."

Robinson's lesson on service is directly benefitting the Smile Network, a Minnesota nonprofit that provides reconstructive surgeries for impoverished children with cleft palates. His wrestlers raised more than $5,000 for the organization last year.

"Once these kids learn who they are, then the key is to teach them the skill of being able to help other people," Robinson said.

Robinson says 99 percent of young athletes who participate in his camps will never wrestle in college. However, the skills they acquire are far more valuable than making it as a big time wrestler after high school.

"It doesn't make any difference what they do in life. They have a work ethic. They can outwork 90 percent of all Americans."

Robinson's fourth-ranked Gopher wrestlers will take their 7-1 record to Iowa on Saturday for a border battle against the No. 2 Hawkeyes.

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