After going 28-12 last year, Southwest Minnesota State 133-pound wrestler Justin Reinsma was struggling to find the same form in 2011-12, starting the season 13-10.
Then, when the Mustangs wrestled St. Cloud State on Jan. 28, the Murray County Central grad was able to regain his form, just in time for a run at the end of the season.
Facing off with the Huskies' Zach Stewart, Reinsma trailed 5-0 after two periods. Then, Reinsma got aggressive, and tied the match with 26 seconds left in the third period, forcing overtime. In the overtime period, Reinsma got a takedown to clinch a 9-7 decision.
Independent file photo
Southwest Minnesota State sophomore 133-pound wrestler Justin Reinsma, left, heads to the NCAA Wrestling Championship tournament in Pueblo, Colo. Reinsma enters the national tournament with a 20-13 record.
"I was taking a few lumps, had a couple losses that I shouldn't have lost, but you learn from your mistakes," said Reinsma, who is 20-13 this season. "The St. Cloud match, I was getting beat by five points or so, and I made a big comeback. There was numerous times where I was down five or six points in a match, came back and just fought through it.
"That was a big turning point, and it felt like I got back into the swing of things from last year."
From there, Reinsma talled seven wins in 10 matches and clinched a spot in the NCAA Championship tournament, which kicks off today in Pueblo, Colo.
"He had a little down time and had some losses early that were hard on him and affected him," said Mustangs head coach Jesse Nelson. "But three weeks into the season, he really picked it up and got on a roll and got refocused and rejuvenated."
Wrestling his first match at 9 a.m. MST today, the Slayton native takes on Ryan Fillingame of Adams State (Colo.), who comes in with a 24-5 record.
Reinsma is one of three local wrestlers battling in the national tournament. In the 133-pound bracket with Reinsma is Marshall native and Augustana senior Jason Jeremiason (17-3). At 165 pounds, Canby's Tad Merritt, the No. 1-ranked wrestler for St. Cloud State, comes into the national tournament with a 33-2 record. The Huskies come into the tournament with the No. 1 ranking in the country.
Preparing for the national tournament, Reinsma hit the mat with teammates Beau Buysse, Jake Begin and Codie Lane, and SMSU assistant coach Evan Forde. Last season, Forde and Reinsma both vied for the 133-pound spot on SMSU's lineup.
"With Jake, I worked on more postions. Codie is a little more stronger, a little more quick, so I had chances to score on him," Reinsma said. "They both pushed me just as well as anyone else in the room."
Wrestling on the big stage is nothing new for Reinsma, who was a five-time Minnesota state qualifier for Fulda/MCC, finishing as high as second place.
"He's a focused young man and has a lot of goals in mind," Nelson said. "He knows what he needs to do. That makes things easier, too, when you have an individual with as much success he has."
On the biggest stage for the first time in his collegiate career, Reinsma is anxious to get going for his shot at a national title.
"Coming to the national tournament like this, you're wrestling with the best in the country," Reinsma said about his first-round match. "Anyone can beat anybody."