Lawrence, Becker savor individual championships

Anthony Maggio

ALBANY, N.Y. – As the Minnesota contingent screamed the rouser prior to the final round at the NCAA Championships, two friends sparred while hearing muffled cheering in the hallways just off the competition floor.

Neither talked as their coaches looked on. They took turns shooting at each other’s legs, preparing for their first opportunity to earn the title of national champion.

Just over an hour later, the two were in the hallway again. The physical scene was nearly the same, but instead of just the coaches looking on, there were also cameras and reporters. And instead of sparring, the two embraced.

Jared Lawrence and Luke Becker – teammates, roommates, and best friends – were now national champions.

“My team won, my roommate won and I won,” Lawrence said. “It’s just the greatest feeling I know.”

The two were roommates as freshmen and have been best friends since. They are workout partners and both give credit to the other for being a great motivator.

“Those guys go through everything together,” said Brett Lawrence, the elder Lawrence brother and former Gophers wrestler. “Getting titles together has to be the best feeling in the world.”

Becker, who won his title at 157 pounds following Lawrence’s win at 149 pounds, struggled to put his feelings into words.

“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Becker said. “I don’t even know what to say. Since I got to college I’ve been waiting for this.”

Lawrence entered the national tournament as a two seed. He was 29-3 during the season, with his only losses coming to Mike Zadick of Iowa. Zadick won a controversial 4-3 decision over Lawrence in their match two weekends ago at the Big Ten Championships.

But Zadick, who was undefeated this season, lost in the third round, leaving Lawrence as the top remaining seed.

Lawrence had mixed feelings about Zadick dropping out early.

“I probably couldn’t take any more pleasure in this tournament outside of myself than watching him get beat,” Lawrence said after Zadick’s loss on Friday. “But I would have liked to wrestle him again.”

Lawrence had not faced any of the five opponents this weekend previously during the season.

In his semifinal match, Lawrence escaped with two seconds left in the second overtime to squeak by third seeded JaMarr Billman of Lock Haven.

In the final, Lawrence scored a takedown with two seconds left in the first period to go up 2-0 on fourth seed Jared Fraver of Oklahoma and went on to win 3-1 to earn his first national championship.

“Ever since I started wrestling I’ve been after this,” Lawrence said. “It’s been a dream I’ve wanted for a long time and it finally came true.”

Becker’s road to the championship was a tough one as well. His 32-3 record and Big Ten Championship earned him a third seed for the tournament.

In his semifinal match, Becker escaped in double overtime from second seeded Yoshi Nakamura of Pennsylvania to earn a 2-1 decision. Nakamura was responsible for two of Becker’s three losses this season.

In the championship match, Becker won in similar fashion, escaping from Bryan Snyder in double overtime to go ahead 5-4 and win the title. Snyder handed Becker his only other loss this season.

“It’s a great example of how friends and teammates and roommates push each other to different heights,” coach J Robinson said. “When you have other people to train with, share the things that you go through with, it’s a great story.”