Sept. 25, 2012
GopherSports: Why did you choose to come to Minnesota?
Michael Kroells: I always wanted to go to the U ever since I was a little kid. I looked at other schools but it was always a 50% I wanted to go to Minnesota, 50% everything else. My childhood of coming here to watch matches sort of won out in the end. And there is a good tradition of upper-weight wrestlers.
GS: What other schools did you consider?
MK: I took visits to Cornell and Princeton. There were a few other schools I talked to a little bit but those were the main two.
GS: How did you get started in wrestling?
MK: It was my dad. He had an old pair of shoes. He asked if I wanted to try wrestling. I said no. And he said “We’ll you’re going to try it anyways.”
GS: Your high school coach Dan Zilverberg and your stepmother Laura Cunningham are both former Gophers. Did they offer any influence or advice when making your decision?
MK: Dan had always influenced me. He is kind of cynical because a lot of his wrestlers go to college but haven’t gone to the U. He’s always wanted someone to go to the U so it was always kind of an underlying factor. My stepmom always just wanted me to go wherever I wanted to go. She never really tried to influence me. The only thing she said was that it would be nice if I stayed around home.
GS: When did you first realize you could compete at the college level and that it was something you wanted to do?
MK: It took a while because when I was a little kid, I wasn’t by any standards and nationally-ranked kid. It was when I was in ninth grade especially, when I placed in the Minnesota State Tournament. I took sixth that year and that was a huge step because my goal when I was younger had always been to place at state. As I got older it turned to wanting to win state, then wanting to win multiple times. But really, in ninth and tenth grade I decided that I could do this and go on and wrestle on a bigger stage.
GS: You were also a letterwinner for football in high school. What made you decided to pursue wrestling in college as opposed to football?
MK: No. It was always wrestling. I had a couple of offers to play football at DII and DIII places but most people didn’t even ask me because I made it very clear that I was going to go wrestle in college.
GS: How do you think wrestling helped you become a better football player?
MK: I think wrestling helps a lot for football because wrestling is a really mental sport. Just having that mental toughness over everybody else. There is a big difference in football where you have seven seconds of play and a minute and a half of break between every play. Wrestling is six minutes straight so they are kind of contradictory sports. But wrestling also helped me become a bigger specimen for football. I would not have been as good at football if I hadn’t been in wrestling because I wouldn’t have been in the shape I was or as strong as I was.
GS: What are some of your goals for your first season as a Golden Gopher?
MK: Go out and win all of my matches I guess. That is probably everybody’s goal but I want to feel out college a little bit. I obviously will work hard and I want to go out and win a couple small tournaments so people see that I am a quality wrestler and start things off right.
GS: You’re planning to major in aerospace engineering. What draws you to that field?
MK: The only reason I picked that kind of major was because I like math and science. And for the longest time I said I was going to go into engineering because it was a convenient way to tell people something that was pretty general. The more I thought about it, it just kept working its way in. And aerospace engineering, it’s all the same the first three years. I might switch over to something else like astrophysics. I just know I want to do engineering and as of right now it doesn’t matter which one I am in.
GS: You’ve received many accolades including Conference MVP, All-American, program records. Is there one achievement you are perhaps a little more proud of than the others?
MK: Two state championships was the biggest thing for me. Both of them were against older guys. One of them I had wrestling three times in the year and I had beat him two times before. My senior year I bumped up to wrestle a guy I had never wrestled. We were in the same class by he was a heavyweight and I was at 220 lbs. and I wanted to see what happened. Both state championships have a backstory to them. It wasn’t just that I won two state titles. It was the actual match-ups and the build-up and the excitement. And they are made better by the fact that when I was a sophomore, I lost in the finals.
GS: You also have a twin. Does she also attend the University of Minnesota? What is the best thing about having a twin?
MK: We are almost like polar opposites. She is going to SDSU so she went as far away as she could without going too far. We get along sometimes but there are definitely a lot of times that we don’t. If we went to the same school, we would just drive each other insane. But she is someone I can talk to about what is going on with my age group. I can ask any question without having to be embarrassed about it because I don’t care if she thinks I’m stupid for asking. We can share information and it’s just free talk to get another person’s perspective.
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