Two friends, coaches face off in final dual of season

Left, Travis Paulson, assistant coach, and Kevin Jackson, head coach speak to Lelund Weatherspoon, redshirt junior at the wrestling match against Midland University on Nov. 12.

Brian Mozey

It was a summer back in 1983 that started a friendship unlike any other for ISU wrestling coach Kevin Jackson. 

Jackson spent a summer with J Robinson, Minnesota’s wrestling coach, at his intensive wrestling camp in Minneapolis. After three months in the camp, Jackson looked to Robinson as a mentor and friend for future years. 

As Jackson transformed from a wrestler to a coach, he looked to Robinson for help and support. Robinson gave him insight and feedback to start his coaching career as the head coach of the USA wrestling team. 

Jackson will see his mentor as an opponent when No. 15 Iowa State travels to No. 18 Minnesota on Friday for the last regular season dual for each team. This dual will be a part of the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division I National Championship Dual Series. 

“I have a lot of respect for J [Robinson] and his program in Minnesota,” Jackson said. “The time he’s spent in Minnesota is something we can learn from because he’s done so much for the sport of wrestling.”

Besides two premier coaches, this dual will have two premier programs throughout the last century. Iowa State has eight NCAA National Championships and 17 conference tournament championships with the most recent in 2009. 

Minnesota has similar success with three NCAA National Championships and 12 conference tournament championships, with the most recent in 2007. Robinson has led the Golden Gophers to all three NCAA national titles and is a three-time National Coach of the Year. 

“I always look forward to seeing Kevin [Jackson] whether it be for a dual or just a casual hangout,” Robinson said. “I know this dual will have an intense environment and that’s what our fans and myself are looking forward to on Friday.”

The last time Jackson’s ISU team was ranked higher than Robinson’s Minnesota team was during Jackson’s first year as an ISU coach. It was during the 2009-10 season, and No. 2 Iowa State defeated No. 6 Minnesota, 19-16. 

Ever since that season, Robinson has the upper hand in the Jackson-Robinson duals with the last three dual wins. The latest win came in the 2013-14 season when No. 1 Minnesota defeated unranked Iowa State 27-12 in Ames.

“It’s always fun wrestling these types of programs,” said ISU wrestler Tanner Weatherman. “Coach J Rob has done a lot of good things in Minnesota and it’ll be fun wrestling a top-ranked team with that type of tradition.”

Even though Jackson and Robinson are and will continue to be great friends, when it comes to wrestling each other, they know they have a job to do. During the heat of the battle, there’s intensity because only one of them is crowned a winner. 

After the dual, the two of them understand their friendship is still there.

“After a dual or maybe even a couple weeks after the dual, there might be anger and distance between each other,” Robinson said. “But when the battle is over, I know that Kevin [Jackson] and I can go grab a beer and continue a great friendship.”