Not even a ‘bite’ by a national champion can stop this wrestler

Kirk Danielson

Kirk Danielson

A lot can happen in 107 straight matches: wins, losses and the occasional disqualification for biting.

“I won on a bite,” said senior wrestler Travis Gottschalk, a Kimball native. “In 20 some years of coaching by Coach (Jason) Liles and my dad, they’ve never seen anyone win on a bite.”

Gottschalk wrestled in 107 straight matches before sitting out against North Carolina State earlier this season. Of those 107 matches, Gottschalk’s dad, Scott Gottschalk, saw every one of them.

“He’s kind of like the team dad, a lot of people look for him in the stands,” Travis said. “They (other wrestlers) know he’s gonna show up. They almost get nervous if he’s a few minutes late.”

While Travis’ 107 is impressive, it’s not anywhere near Scott’s 70,000 – the estimated number of miles he’s traveled to see Travis wrestle. He’s never messed a match … anywhere.

Scott Gottschalk, a dairy manager for Land O’ Lakes, is used to being on the road for his job and traveling to watch Travis wrestle.

“He drives a couple thousand miles a week all over the Midwest. He’s always on the road, but he’s home most weekends,” Travis said.

The 180-mile drive from Kimball to Brookings is small compared to the distances Scott has driven to see Travis in action – distances up to 1,000 miles.

Travis is grateful for the support he has received from his father through these many trips around the country.

“It has definitely helped me through some hard times. I don’t know what I would have done without him on a lot of the trips. Any college athlete will tell you that it’s a lot of work, and you need some moral support,” Travis said.

“I’d like to thank my father for everything he’s done. I don’t think he could be a better father. I know people always thank their mother and forget their father sometimes, and my father has definitely been a major supporter of the sport, and I don’t think I could have done it without him … He knows everything about me.”

Travis, a fifth-year senior who started at SDSU as a walk on, has had his share of bumps and bruises during his consecutive match run. The mechanical engineering major sounds nearly pre-med when listing off his history.

“I partially tore my calf muscle at NDSU a few weeks ago, last year I hyper-extended my elbows, the previous year was my shoulder, and the year before that I strained my LCL. Out of four years, there are only two matches I haven’t wrestled in. I’ve always had injuries, but nothing major enough to require surgery … knock on wood.”

Travis’ high school wrestling experiences aided his desire to wrestle at SDSU. He has a real fire for wrestling and a passion for the sport.

“In high school, I wasn’t an outstanding wrestler, but by my senior year I was getting pretty good. I was ranked second in the state of Minnesota. Due to a very rare injury, I dislocated my collarbone from my sternum, and that took me out for most of the season. I came back before the doctors cleared me, and I ended up placing fifth when I could have been a state champion. I always wanted to be a state champion, and that kind of gave me the hunger to prove my point that I wasn’t done yet.”

Travis was not recruited by the Jacks and walked on to the team his freshman year. The last three years he has received a scholarship from the wrestling team through his hard work.

“SDSU was a perfect match for me. So I came here and knew I was gonna wrestle, with a scholarship or not, no matter what. Because I wasn’t (a) state champion, I wasn’t heavily recruited. I just kept working hard, and it paid off.”

Travis couldn’t imagine being in college and not wrestling. Being a part of the team made the transition from high school to college easier for him.

“It’s affected everything I’ve done in college, as far as practice times and classes. You have to keep your grades up to stay on the team. The good part is that you meet a lot of people (and) get a lot of help. You don’t just show up as a wide-eyed freshman. You have a team behind you and a coach to help you out if you need help.”

“I honestly don’t know what it will be like next year when I’m not wrestling.”