Eggum named to rookie team

by Allison Younge

Gophers freshman wrestler Brandon Eggum captured national recognition for his efforts as Minnesota’s 177-pounder this season. And his honors keep coming.
The team announced on Monday that Eggum, a native of Sydney, Mont., was named to the Amateur Wrestling News’ All-Rookie Team. His first-team honors credited Eggum as being the top freshman 177-pound wrestler in the nation this year.
After redshirting his first season at Minnesota, Eggum stepped into the Gophers starting lineup to produce impressive results. He qualified for the NCAA tournament by placing fourth at the Big Ten championships. He posted a 19-10 overall mark.
Two years ago, the Gophers’ recruiting class (which included Eggum) was ranked No. 1 in the nation. The 1995 freshman were among the top three recruiting classes in Gophers history, and as was predicted, they have emerged as solid wrestlers. The Gophers’ third-place finish at the NCAAs was a direct result of their talented, yet young, lineup.
With all 10 starters returning next year, there will be little room in the lineup for newcomers. However, seven freshman recruits have already signed national letters of intent to attend Minnesota. While the recruits may not be recognized immediately, their potential is evident.
“This class is real positive,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “These guys will be the legacy of what the guys here now have already started.”
Robinson expects all seven recruits to redshirt next year, but the group will still play a vital role on the team.
“They’ll be in the wrestling room everyday,” Robinson said. “It’ll be nice to have some people good enough to start pushing the people in front of them.”
Three recruits signed with the Gophers just this week: Julio Alaniz, Leroy Vega and Owen Elzen. These recruits add to an impressive list of high school seniors who have already signed with Minnesota. Alaniz (Mankato, Minn.) was a state champion at 119 pounds this season wrestling for Mankato West High School.
Vega (Portage, Ind.) earned his second consecutive state title this year at 112 pounds. He also is a National Espoir champ and placed fifth at the national high school tournament in Pittsburgh. Both Alaniz and Vega will wrestle at 118 for the Gophers.
A standout at Dover-Eyota High School, Elzen (Eyota, Minn.) is a two-time state champion and a national high school champion at 189. He will wrestle at 190 for Minnesota.
These three join Chad Erickson (Apple Valley, Minn.), Matt Kraft (Lakefield, Minn.), Joe Calivitta (Anaheim, Calif.) and Mike Cuperus (Worthington, Minn.) on the Gophers freshmen roster. Erickson, Calivitta and Cuperus all earned multiple state titles. This season, Kraft became the winningest high school wrestler in Minnesota history with 208 career victories.
With the current Gophers wrestlers setting the pace, Minnesota coaches anticipate a promising future for these seven young wrestlers.
“You could make the claim that this is the best redshirting class yet,” Robinson said. “But these guys are for the team in two years.”
Two years from now, when these recruits get their chance to take the mat, maybe they will follow Eggum’s lead to the top of the national ranks.
National Espoir championships
Five of this year’s freshman redshirt wrestlers will compete at the National Espoir Freestyle and Greco-Roman Championships this weekend. Brett Lawrence, Josh Krebs, Brad Pike, Chris Hunter and Kenny Howard will travel to Purdue for the 20-and-under tournament.
Gophers sophomore Bart Golyer will try out for the Greco-Roman World Team, after finishing fifth at the National Open trials in Orlando, Fla., on April 26.
Freshman Brent Boeshans also qualified after winning a title at the University Nationals at Northwestern on April 13. Former Gophers Billy Pierce and Dave Zuniga will also try out for the World Team.
Gophers assistant coaches Willie Short and Troy Steiner are currently preparing to compete in the final trials for the Senior World Team in Las Vegas.