WILLMAR -- Jerry Kill followed wrestling coach J Robinson to the podium Tuesday at the Willmar American Legion on the first stop of the second annual Gopher Road Trip.
Robinson had just delivered an impassioned speech, citing a time when he brought in some highly ranked recruits who turned out to be duds. He could tell from the moment they stepped on campus their hearts weren’t in it. From then on, Robinson said, he has sought out recruits who have a passion for becoming Minnesota wrestlers.
The results speak for themselves, as Robinson’s Gophers have won three NCAA titles, with another runner-up finish last season. Kill loves Robinson and referred to him again Tuesday as the toughest person he knows.
Later in his speech, Kill said, “We’re not going to beg people to come to the University of Minnesota. We didn’t do it at Northern [Illinois]. We didn’t do it at Southern [Illinois]. I want kids to want to come here.
“You start begging and doing all that stuff everybody else does to get them, it’s going to get you in trouble, number one. And second of all, if they don’t have their heart in it, you’re not going to win.
“And right now, we’ve developed a bunch of kids, and they want to win. They’re working hard.”
I’m not sure which recruits those comments could have been directed at. But I do know Kill’s staff is determined not to go through another Frank Ragnow situation, where they offer a local kid a scholarship and spend close to two years waiting on a decision, only to see him head elsewhere at the last moment.
Ragnow picked Arkansas after narrowing his other finalists to Minnesota and Florida State.
The top Minnesota recruit in the 2015 class is Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell. The Gophers have spent ample time and energy recruiting him, but he said earlier this month that he was leaning toward Michigan State. And now Alabama has offered.
The Gophers aren’t holding their breath.
They would like to sign Drayton Carlberg, an offensive tackle from Minneapolis De La Salle who has offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Oregon, etc. But before long, the Gophers are going to want to know if they’re in or out. And if they’re out, they’ll move on.
The same goes for Sioux Falls, S.D., offensive tackle Grant Schmidt, who also has an Ohio State offer. From all accounts, the Gophers still appear to be in very good position to land Schmidt, but Kill isn’t going to beg.
He wants players who are hungry and determined to keep turning around a program that has improved from 3-9 to 6-7 to 8-5 in his three seasons.
“We had a good season [last fall],” Kill said. “I told [the players], ‘That’s great. We’ve done some things we haven’t done in a long time.’ But that’s not our mission. That’s not where we want to be, and that’s not where you [fans] want to be.
“We talk about doing one more. We’ve got to work harder than anyone else. That’s who I’ve been my whole life.”