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Bauman to wrestle for Gophers

In this March 7 file photo, Joel Bauman, right, is shown wrestling Tyler McMonagle of Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in the Class A team quarterfinals of the state tournament at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Bauman won 11-1. <b>(Tribune file photo by Rand Middleton)</b>

For the second straight year, the small school district of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg has produced a wrestler for the Minnesota Gophers.

Joel Bauman, a senior who is expected to wrestle at 189 pounds this season, has verbally committed to the University of Minnesota, it was announced on Monday. Bauman will join former teammate Kevin Steinhaus, who is currently a freshman for the Gophers.

"Kevin was my host when I went there for my visit," said Bauman, who recently became the area's all-time rushing leader in football with 7,479 yards. "He's pretty excited that I'm coming there, too."

Bauman, a Class A state champion at 189 pounds last winter, currently sports a 126-29 car-eer record in wrestling entering his final prep season. He was third at state as a sophomore at 189 and qualified as a freshman at 171 pounds. Bauman went 45-2 last year en route to helping the Fighting Saints win the Class A team title. He won all seven of his matches at state.

Bauman has also been involved in Greco-Roman wrestling in the off-season and was the national champion three years ago in Fargo, N.D. He finished second in the nationals two years ago and was eighth last summer.

He was recruited for wrestling by Oklahoma, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio University among the many Division I and II schools showing interest.

He will receive a full-ride scholarship with the Gophers. He also received a Division I offer for football from Illinois State, as well as many Division II offers.

"I'm glad it's over," he said about choosing a school. "It was a very stressful time."

Bauman said he decided on Minnesota because of the intensity the wrestlers and coaches showed during his recruiting visit there.

"I knew a lot of the guys there and I just loved the intensity in the locker room," he said. "Coach (J Robinson) told me about betting on myself and that I'd be an investment to the program. That sold me. I don't want to be babied in my life. I want to earn everything."

Bauman was so impressed with Robinson telling him to bet on himself that he went out and got a tattoo with that phrase done in Willmar after he verbally committed.

KMS coach Wes Haglund said Bauman's athleticism and intelligence on the mat is second to none.

"Joel is just an incredible athlete," said Haglund. "He's so quick. He doesn't look strong, but he is very strong. The things he can do are unreal. I've seen it time after time in the wrestling room. and he's so smart. He always knows where he is on the mat and he knows his opponents so well."

Bauman is also one of the area's top track and field performers.

"I'm ready to focus on just one sport now," he said. "I love wrestling. I like football and will always wonder if I could have played in college. But I made the right choice."