On the Mat with Dan Gonsor
With a 15-6 record this season, Dan Gonsor is having a successful year by anyone’s standards. After sitting out last season for a redshirt year, the Cleveland, Ohio, native has battled continuing back problems but continues to be a menace on the mat. Gonsor has been ranked as high 14th nationally this season, and he will put his strong record on the line this Saturday when the Cavaliers wrestle No. 25 Old Dominion (2:30 p.m.) and George Mason (4 p.m.) at Mem Gym. Today he talks with VirginiaSports.com about his stellar season to this point as well as several off-the-mat issues, including his Friday dinners with his roommates.
You’ve had a pretty strong season to this point, especially despite battling your back problems.
Gonsor: We’ve been picking out the competitions. I sit out some, like the opens, just trying to be smart about my back. I’ve beaten some good kids and I’ve lost to a few too, but the main thing is that I’m learning from them. I’m trying to improve for ACCs and NCAAs because once you get to that point, you’re back to 0-0 again.
What did you learn from last weekend, particularly the loss at Rutgers?
Gonsor: Every loss I’ve ever had has made me better, and this one will too – it already has. I was out for a little bit and I need to get back in the swing of things. It just pointed out some stuff I need to work on. Even though top is my best position, I feel that is where I lost the match. I still need to focus on little things there, and I can’t get sloppy. I have to stay smart.
What was last year like for you, going through the redshirt season?
Gonsor: I actually got a lot out of it, just being able to come in and focus specifically on the things I needed to improve upon, like scrambling – mainly things on my feet. I was able to focus the whole year on developing my shots, scrambling, defense and my legs and really look at little details while I let my back heal.
What kind of things do you do to keep your back as healthy as possible?
Gonsor: The main things are the rehab and stretching. Stretching is really important – I do it two or three times a day. Especially my hamstrings – if those are tight, then so is my back. I work with Luke (Donovan), our trainer, a lot for my rehab.
You guys have a big weekend coming up with Old Dominion and George Mason coming to town.
Gonsor: It’s exciting and it should be two good matches. UVa and ODU go after a lot of the same recruits and a lot of us were recruited by Steve Martin at ODU as well. It should be an exciting day. ODU had beaten us every time since I had gotten here until this year. We really need to stay focused and not get too up since we already have beaten them once. We can’t give up bonus points – that’s what I did last week and you can’t do that in big duals.
What is your relationship like with Shawn Harris, who also was your teammate in high school?
Gonsor: We’ve wrestled ever since seventh grade. In eighth grade, he beat me at the junior high state finals. Freshman year, I was behind him in the lineup. Sophomore year, I still couldn’t start – I was behind Shawn and Lance Palmer, who goes to Ohio State now and is ranked third in the country and is a three-time All-American. My junior year, I finally got my shot to start.
We live together now. We roomed together freshman year and it was the perfect situation. We’ve always had the same work ethic and goals. We’ve been together for so long and were drill partners in high school. It’s like having a twin brother – there’s always someone to work out with and now we live with Derek Valenti, Mike Salopek and Jedd Moore. It’s a really good house. We’re all dedicated to getting better and being NCAA champs.
That has to be an interesting house with that mix of personalities.
Gonsor: Out of everyone, I probably am the one who flips out the most, but we all get along really well. We all do dinners on Friday. Valenti will cook dinner, usually some kind of Italian food. Jedd will grill steaks. I bake cake or cupcakes – from scratch. Harris will do something like corn bread and Salopek makes potatoes. We’ve got a whole thing going. We have a cow – we all bought a cow. Jedd’s parents slaughtered a cow – 800 pounds of beef. We all get along really well. We have arguments naturally, but for the most part it’s awesome.
What do you like to do outside of wrestling?
Gonsor: Just hang out with friends. We have a dog at the house too, Rogue. We take her to Walnut Creek Park and play disc golf. We like to fish too. We try to do a lot of outdoor stuff.
Food: I made these Snickers Bar cupcakes. They were really good. They had chocolate icing and nougat icing as well. Valenti and the rest of the roommates help me a lot.
Spot on Grounds: there’s a spot right outside of Newcomb, between Newcomb and the bookstore, where you can see the pond and the house on the hill. It’s a nice view.
Wrestling memory: my senior year of high school when our team beat Blair Academy for the national championship.
Class: Environmental Science
TV Show: Dexter
Sports Teams: any Cleveland teams – Indians, Cavs or Browns
Celebrity: Megan Fox