A Wrestling Coach, In the Belly of the Beast

J Robinson has been the wrestling coach at the University of Minnesota for 25 years, so he is getting some recognition this year. The Gophers might be mediocre at football and basketball (with some notable exceptions), but they are terrific at wrestling, thanks to Robinson. They are a national power year in and year out, have won three national championships, and are currently ranked #4. Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has an excellent column on Robinson’s stellar career.
Which is not to say that it has been smooth sailing. On the contrary: while Robinson is his own man and probably eschews political labels, by conventional definition he is a conservative, which has led to a number of battles with the administration of the University of Minnesota over the years. That Robinson has not just survived but prospered is probably due to the fact that he has delivered spectacular results. Souhan writes:

Today, J Robinson, the legendary Gophers wrestling coach with the unadorned first initial, will receive a little punctuation.
The Gophers will celebrate his 25 years on the job not with a period but a comma, because even at 64, Robinson says he has no interest in slowing down.
Not after two national coach of the year awards and three national titles. Not after 55 surgeries, including 34 on his knees, after a life spent rending his and others’ joints. Not with his athletes still teasingly offering high-fives, knowing he can no longer raise his damaged right arm. …
”Once you’ve had enough success, you need a reason to get up in the morning,” he said Thursday, in his office on campus. ”The thing that gets me up is these young people who come here with these dreams of being great, and they need help getting there.
”Did I want to get out of bed at 5:45 a.m. today? No way. Without them, I wouldn’t.”
Robinson might feel a little uncomfortable hearing so much praise today.
He’s more accustomed to angering the politically correct, battling the university administration and taking the path less passable. …
With the pugnaciousness of an Army Ranger, champion wrestler and coach, Robinson has proved that true. …
Robinson’s idea of protesting during the Vietnam war was complaining that he didn’t get enough combat time. “That was where the action was, for our generation,” he said. ”That was, for us, the Wild West of the 1850s. That’s why you wanted to go there.”
When Robinson received a waiver to return to the States to wrestle, and his unit was recalled, Robinson insisted on being sent back to the front.
”I tell soldiers today that they are doing something that other people want to do but won’t,” Robinson said. ”They should be proud of that.” …
Robinson still dresses in the same locker room as his wrestlers, still joins in the incessant needling that persists in those bastions of political incorrectness. He still contends for national titles with the program he built from the mat up.

Despite his tremendous success, Robinson has battled university administrators throughout his career:

”Going through this with different administrations, I find it interesting that we’re on a college campus, where there’s supposed to be diversity of thought, and yet if your thought isn’t what their thought is, then there’s no diversity of thought allowed,” he said. ”You know there are so many people who won’t do the right thing because they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs. That’s all they have.
”I always figured if they fired me, I could go live in a tent. So I didn’t worry about it.”

That’s the attitude you pretty much have to have if you are a conservative in taxpayer-supported academia. This is a photo of J Robinson with one of his students:
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Congratulations to Coach Robinson on 25 years of successful teaching. Despite 55 surgeries, I doubt whether he has ever called in sick. Certainly not fraudulently.

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