Eggum rolls into NCAA contention

Allison Younge

Every great athlete starts somewhere small, like a game of stickball, smear football, or pick-up basketball. The Gophers’ 177-pound Brandon Eggum had his own unique introduction to wrestling — matches against his neighborhood friends.
“When I was in second grade my neighbor would put on these little wrestling tournaments in his backyard. He would give out prizes to the winners — I won a lot of prizes,” Eggum said.
As Minnesota’s only starting freshman, Eggum (14-4) possesses all of the components necessary to win the another coveted prize — a national title.
“Brandon represents the new breed of freshmen,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “He’s good enough to come in and become an All-American his first year.”
Eggum, a Sidney, Mont., native, didn’t enter the Gophers program empty-handed. The backyard tournaments developed into much bigger events with bigger prizes as he grew older.
Eggum won three state titles wrestling for Sidney High School and went undefeated his junior and senior seasons. During the off-season of his high school years, Eggum traveled around the world (Russia, France, Bulgaria and Hungary) competing in wrestling tournaments.
Eggum’s high school wrestling coach, Guy Melby, played a major role in molding his standout athlete.
“Everyday he would work out with me,” Eggum said of his former coach. “He worked paving roads in the sun all day, but afterwards he always found time to work out with me.”
Even though Eggum was a premier wrestler in Montana, he had doubts about where his talent would take him.
“No one in my hometown had ever gone Division I in any sport that I knew of,” Eggum said. “I didn’t think I had a chance.”
As a junior in high school, Eggum was surprised at the number of recruiting offers he had. He narrowed down his choices to Big Ten schools. A short recruiting trip to Minnesota was all he needed. Eggum said the Gophers’ program was a perfect fit.
“I hit it off well with the guys right away,” Eggum said. “I was only here for a few days, but I felt very comfortable.”
Redshirting his first year with the Gophers offered Eggum plenty of time to adapt to the aggressive, physical style of Division I wrestling.
Eggum uses workout partners Tim Hartung and Zac Taylor as motivation for his matches. Taylor is No. 3 at 167 pounds, and Hartung is undefeated and No. 3 at 190 pounds. At 177, Eggum sits in a position that demands success.
“I feel confident with Zac before me and Tim right after me,” Eggum said. “They’re both really tough. They go out there to kill their opponents, and I want to do the same.”
Robinson said he has high expectations for his durable 177- pounder.
“He has been a winner his whole life, so he knows how to win, and he brings that attitude to the team,” Robinson said.
Eggum’s motivation method has proven very effective. But he says he still strives for perfection.
“My biggest matches this year, in my mind, have been the matches I’ve lost,” Eggum said. “I know I’m right (there) with the top (ranked) guys. I need to work harder, find the edge and start beating (them).”
It’s Eggum’s rigid individual standards that Robinson feels will propel Eggum to the top.
“He has to look at himself not as a freshman, but a seasoned competitor,” Robinson said. “He needs to find a confidence in himself that will give him an added intensity — that extra boost that will put him over the top.”
Minnesota’s match against Penn State on Sunday will offer Eggum another opportunity to lock horns with a strong Big Ten contender. No. 3 Minnesota defeated No. 4 Penn State twice at the National Duals Tournament earlier this season.
In those matches, Eggum split bouts with Penn State’s Frank Morici, winning the first, 8-5, but losing the second, 4-3.
Just like the days growing up in Montana, Eggum knows he will be ready for anything.
“I can’t underestimate him because he’s pretty tough, but I know I can beat him,” he said.