White House tour completes wrestlers East Coast weekend

Anthony Maggio

Minnesota’s defending national champion wrestling team added another component to its already impressive resume on Monday, visiting the White House in honor of its title.

The 10 All-Americans from last season, the coaching staff and support staff members spent approximately 25 minutes with President George W. Bush, including a tour of the Oval Office after a personal invitation by the President.

“It’s great not only for the team, but wrestling as a whole,” coach J Robinson said. “I don’t think a wrestling team has ever gone to the White House before. It was just another first for this team.”

Last season was the program’s first national championship and the first time one team has boasted 10 All-Americans.

The Gophers were in the Washington, D.C., area for a pair of dual meets on Saturday against Virginia Tech and James Madison. Minnesota won both meets handily.

After touring historic buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the team visited the White House and took a group photo with the President.

Then Bush invited the Gophers to the Oval Office where they received an explanation of the pictures hanging in the office and shook hands with him.

“It was really cool,” senior Chad Erikson said. “We really didn’t know what to expect going in, we didn’t know if we were only going to tour or actually get to meet him. This will be something I can remember for the rest of my life.”

Athletes and coaches alike said they witnessed a side of the President not seen on television. The visiting group all commended Bush for taking the time to meet with them.

“With all the stuff that he has to worry about just knowing he recognizes that we’re good at what we do, it’s a great honor,” senior Owen Elzen said.

Added Robinson: “It says a lot for him that he’s trying to keep things normal. He’s trying to show the American people that there’s a lot of excellence out there and he wants to recognize different things.”

The Gophers received even more motivation to be successful after their trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – not that much was needed.

Minnesota is undefeated in its five dual meets this season, and has given up a total of 37 points all season – 18 of which came on forfeits.

With one trip to the White House under their belt, the Gophers hope this trip starts a tradition.

“It would be great for any team,” Robinson said. “As far as we’re concerned we want to make it an annual pilgrimage.”

– Staff Reporter Brian Stensaas contributed to this report

Anthony Maggio covers wrestling and
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