Off the mat, an even fiercer fight

At home meets, wrestling fans vote on the coaches’ personal style.

Gophers head coach J Robinson, head assistant coach Brian Eggum, and assistant coach Luke Becker look on during the dual against Indiana at the Sports Pavilion on Sunday.

Lisa Persson

Gophers head coach J Robinson, head assistant coach Brian Eggum, and assistant coach Luke Becker look on during the dual against Indiana at the Sports Pavilion on Sunday.

Jared Christensen

Gophers wrestling matches at the Sports Pavilion usually start off with a 125-pound bout.

If head assistant coach Brandon Eggum had his way, though, the matches would instead kick off with a fashion show.

A catwalk, flashing lights, bumping walk-out music — anything that would allow the Gophers coaching staff to “strut their stuff” down the runway in the name of winning best-dressed.

Minnesota’s coaches have been competing for the honor at every home dual meet since 2011, and they take it seriously.

Gophers head coach J Robinson has even gone so far as to accuse Eggum of cheating.

“Eggum’s deal is cheat, cheat, cheat — whatever it takes to win best-dressed,” Robinson said.

For home meets, the coaches break out their best finery, from velvet jackets to colorful shirts to quirky ties, and fans vote for the best-dressed coach of the afternoon.

Eggum said any accusations of cheating come from coworkers who are bitter about losing to him.

“Those guys are just intimidated,” the head assistant coach said, adding that the accusations are merely “attempts to validate their losses.”

If anybody on the staff is playing unfairly, Eggum said, he suspects it’s volunteer assistant coach Jayson Ness.

“That system is rigged,” Eggum said with a laugh. “Ness is a local guy, so his whole family comes to every dual and fills out, like, 30 ballots [for him].”

Ness, on the other hand, pointed a finger in a different direction — back at Robinson.

“If anybody’s cheating, it’s Robinson,” Ness said.

“His wife is really competitive, so she picks out his outfits.”

Though the coaches disagree about whether their colleagues are playing fairly, Eggum and Ness said they think physical attractiveness plays a big role in the end vote.

“I should win it every week based on looks alone,” Eggum said. “It shouldn’t even really have to be a competition.”

Ness said he agreed with Eggum — to a degree.

“The competition is all about good looks,” Ness said.

“And that’s exactly why I won the overall title last year.”

Eggum said he’s the favorite for this year’s overall title after a victory Sunday during the dual with Indiana.

Robinson wasn’t impressed.

“Eggum goes over to the ballot box and picks up 30 ballots and then you don’t see him for 15 minutes,” Robinson said. “What do you expect?”

Eggum said the competition started about three years ago, when WIN Magazine — a publication devoted to amateur wrestling news — awarded assistant coach Luke Becker the honor of “best-dressed assistant coach” after the Big Ten tournament.

Becker said he didn’t know the award existed until he won it, and emphasized that his focus is on coaching — not his attire.

But ever since Becker won the award, his colleagues have taken their own competition to great lengths.

Eggum’s catwalk idea is just part of a suggested restructuring. He would also like winners to be announced before the dual rather than afterward when emotions are running high.

Ness said he isn’t surprised Eggum came up with this plan.

“Eggum’s all about show-boating,” he said.

Becker, however, said he could see Ness getting into the idea.

“Those guys would all love that, but I don’t take it quite as seriously as they do,” he said. “They are competing for a fake award when I already won the real award.”

Eggum said he’s already mapping out his outfit for this Sunday’s dual against Penn State — the last home dual of the season.

“I’ve got to go all out,” he said. “My wife and I are strategizing outfits right now, but ultimately it’ll be a game-time decision.”

What Eggum decides to wear Sunday may still be up in the air, but one thing isn’t.

“I’ll win,” he said.