Wrestling: Balow commits to Golden Gophers
Even though a knee injury derailed his senior football and wrestling seasons, Lake City’s Will Balow is going to live a dream: wrestling for the University of Minnesota.
On Friday, Balow gave a verbal commitment to Minnesota and will join the Golden Gophers’ wrestling team in 2014, picking his home state over Big Ten rival Wisconsin.
“As a little kid, it was kind of a dream in the back of my mind to be a Gopher,” Balow said. “As I got older, that faded away, but recently, it was really exciting that I could make that dream come true.
“I felt the U was the best place for me to grow as a student, person and wrestler.”
Last year as a junior, Balow put himself on the radar by going 31-2 and winning the Class 1A 182-pound title. The Tigers standout was dominant against the state’s best, winning the state title with ease in a 13-4 major decision against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s Patrick Rooney in the finals.
This fall, Balow’s wrestling dreams took an unexpected twist. A running back/linebacker for the Lake City football team, Balow went down to the turf in a game against conference rival Rochester Lourdes on Sept. 20.
“I was on defense and tried jumping over a guy,” Balow said. “I landed, turned and cut and my foot popped. It’s something I’ve done 100 times before and something just happened that time.”
Afterwards, Balow was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his knee. From the moment the injury happened, fear consumed Balow’s mind until the Gophers’ coaches put his mind at ease.
“I called them and they said it didn’t change anything,” Balow said. “For wrestlers, it’s a common injury and most come back from it and some come back even better.
“Fear was definitely the right word. My priorities flashed before my eyes and I realized what was important. … At the time, I prepared myself (for the worst). It’s still really tough and it’s going to be tough.”
The Gophers open the 2013 season ranked as the No. 2 team in the country behind Big Ten foe Penn State. Likely to redshirt his first year on campus, Balow looks to be recovered and in shape for when he’s able to return to the mat.
“The good thing about it is I got a lot of time until next regular season,” said Balow, who said he will likely wrestle at 184 pounds in college. “That will give me time to heal my knee. I’m not too worried.”
It has been a roller-coaster seven months for Balow, from winning the state title in March to hurting his knee and committing to Minnesota. Through all the roadblocks, Balow is ready to come out stronger when he finally gets to put on a maroon and gold singlet.
“I try to keep a level head about things. There was a lot of great moments and no-so-great moments this year,” Balow said. “The good thing is I’m learning from it and it’s going to make me a better wrestler and a stronger person. … This will teach me some adversity. It’ll give me some time to focus and I’ll come out of it stronger.”