After duel with knee, J Robinson is back for National Duals

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 22, 2013 - 12:22 AM

The Gophers wrestling coach, now on his third artificial left knee, is re-energized by his return to the team and a true-team clash on campus.

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Gophers coach J Robinson coached on crutches during practice on Wednesday.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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One of college wrestling's premier events is coming to Williams Arena on Friday night, and Gophers coach J Robinson will be there in all his glory, even if he's hobbled on crutches.

Robinson, 66, nearly lost his left leg last month when a severe infection ravaged his artificial left knee. After undergoing surgery to remove the knee and missing several meets, he'll be back on the sideline, hoping for another National Duals championship.

This event is not to be confused with next month's NCAA Championships, which crown a team champion based on the success of individual wrestlers in their respective weight classes. In the National Duals, every match counts, so it's more of a true team competition. The third- seeded Gophers face Virginia Tech on Friday night, with the winner potentially facing second-seeded Iowa in Saturday afternoon's semis and top-seeded Oklahoma State in Saturday night's finals.

In other words, some bitter rivals should meet again.

"Oh yeah," Robinson said. "It's pure unadulterated hatred."

Yes, the fire still burns within Robinson, even after this latest health scare. If anybody should have known the dangers of leaving an infection untreated, it's him.

By his count, he's been through more than 50 surgeries, including at least 35 to his knees. He had his first knee replacement done in 1994, and that left knee has since been replaced two other times.

"I had an abscessed tooth last summer and just kept putting it off," Robinson said. "It was kind of stupid on my part."

Robinson eventually had the tooth treated, but the infection still spread to his left knee. In early January, the knee was so swollen, he couldn't walk. He had it drained twice, and the second time his doctor urged him to get to the Mayo Clinic.

"Had he not sent me there, it could have been a lot worse," Robinson said. "I could have lost my leg."

Unable to put weight on his left leg, Robinson looks considerably thinner and weaker than he did in November. But he is slowly getting his energy back and hopes to have yet another knee installed after the season.

For now, he's just happy to be back around the team he's coached since 1986. In his office this week, he slowly propped his left leg onto his desk.

"One thing I've learned in my life is that purpose is important," he said. "I see people that retire, and they have no purpose, and then they kind of just wither away.

"Even when you feel bad, you come here, and there's this energy of guys wanting to win national tournaments. And that energy rubs off on you. I can recuperate with my leg up here just as well as I can at home. And here I get a lot more grief from all the guys."

Robinson guided the Gophers to NCAA titles in 2001, 2002 and 2007. He's also proud of the team's seven titles at the National Duals. For a quarter-century, Robinson has pushed to make the National Duals a separate focal point on the wrestling calendar. The Gophers won last year's revamped Duals, defeating Iowa and Oklahoma State in the semifinals and finals.

As was the case a year ago, many of the nation's top wrestlers will compete.

"The beauty of this tournament is there are [seven] No. 1 guys here," Robinson said, citing the nation's top-ranked wrestlers at 125 pounds, 133, 149, 157, 165, 174 and heavyweight according to Intermat. "So you're going to see great wrestling."

Seven of the nation's top eight teams are also competing, but it's still an invitational. Top-ranked Penn State, as it did last year, chose not to enter.

Mike Moyer, president of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, said the hope is that every top program will compete for the National Duals title next year. A big turnout at Williams Arena this weekend wouldn't hurt.

"One of the reasons I'm glad it's coming to Minnesota is no one's been more supportive than J Robinson," Moyer said. "It's great that it's on his campus."

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  • NATIONAL DUAL MEET CHAMPIONSHIPS TODAY THROUGH SATURDAY AT WILLIAMS ARENA

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Minnesota 35 4th Qtr 2:00
Miami 28
Baltimore 13 4th Qtr 5:56
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 3 1st Qtr 10:41
St. Louis 0
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 30 2nd Qtr 9:20
Toronto 38
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Boston 5:00 PM
Miami
Detroit 5:00 PM
Brooklyn
LA Lakers 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Orlando
Phoenix 5:00 PM
Washington
Indiana 6:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Colorado 5:00 PM
Detroit
Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
FIU 69 FINAL
Hartford 82
Goshen 46 2nd Half 5:33
Valparaiso 70
Bryant 27 2nd Half 13:24
Denver 20
Austin Peay 30 2nd Half 16:09
Lipscomb 38
Tennessee St 26 2nd Half 17:20
Middle Tennessee 38
South Dakota 33 2nd Half 16:29
Montana 41
ULM 28 2nd Half
Samford 32
Coker 19 1st Half 3:49
South Carolina 23
USC 11 1st Half 15:22
Boston College 10
Northern Ariz 5 1st Half 15:31
Hampton 4
SD Christian 3 1st Half 13:17
San Diego 11
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
Troy 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
FIU 83 FINAL
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
IUPUI 62
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
NC A&T 43 FINAL
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
NJIT 50 FINAL
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
South Florida 77 1st OT
Penn State 77
Indiana State 43 2nd Half 6:39
St Johns 46
Southern U 34 2nd Half 7:43
Florida 60
Wright State 41 2nd Half 3:59
Purdue 62
(19) Oklahoma St 35 2nd Half 14:22
USC 39
Houston 33 2nd Half 14:37
Texas Tech 36
Ark-Little Rock 35 2nd Half 17:08
Tulsa 33
Dayton 39 2nd Half 13:59
Vanderbilt 35
Northern Ariz 17 2nd Half 15:46
New Mexico 29
UNC-Asheville 42 2nd Half 16:56
USC Upstate 36
North Dakota 46 2nd Half 18:55
South Dakota 39
Western Ill 40 2nd Half 16:27
Marquette 35
Elon 43 2nd Half 16:24
(6) North Carolina 57
Ball State 35 2nd Half 15:52
Western Ky 52
(8) Kentucky 26 2nd Half 19:26
(13) Duke 49
New Orleans 18 2nd Half 19:44
Alabama 44
Chicago State 29 2nd Half 14:36
Milwaukee 42
Bowling Green 49 2nd Half 15:48
Bradley 30
Ill-Springfield 32 2nd Half
SE Missouri St 42
Northern Ill 16 2nd Half 20:00
Northern Iowa 23
(23) Iowa 49 2nd Half 18:11
Drake 52
Central Michigan 38 2nd Half
Minnesota 36
Western Carolina 21 2nd Half
North Florida 26
Oklahoma 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Wyoming 8 1st Half 15:25
Colorado 8
Portland 4 1st Half 17:43
Boise State 6
Cal Poly 10 1st Half 13:17
Colorado State 9
No Dakota State 2 1st Half 19:39
Grand Canyon 2
Albany 9 1st Half 14:53
Cal State Fullerton 5
Idaho State 7 1st Half 14:54
Seattle 4
(18) Michigan State 11 1st Half 12:26
(19) Syracuse 16
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
North Texas
Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion
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