U’s Eggum wants to end his career with NCAA wins

Take a quick glance at Brandon Eggum’s resume as a Gophers wrestler over the past four years and you’ll see a record of 110-22, three All-America honors and two Big Ten titles.
Look a little more and you’ll see a second-place finish at last year’s NCAA tournament. But you won’t see a national championship — neither an individual crown nor a team title.
The highest awards in college wrestling have eluded the senior in past years. But this time around Eggum hopes to add both to his trophy case.
“That’s the reason I came to the University of Minnesota, to win a national title,” Eggum said. “I’m not focusing my whole career on whether I win or lose the national title, but it would end my career here at Minnesota on the right note, in a perfect way.”
If Eggum has his way, his individual championship will lead to a team crown. The road won’t be easy for the second-ranked Eggum and the No. 2 Gophers when they head to St. Louis for the tourney next weekend.
With a probable No. 2 seed, Eggum won’t be the favorite to win it all. That distinction goes to No. 1 Cael Sanderson of Iowa State.
Sanderson, who was last season’s national champion, has beaten Eggum all four times the two have squared off — once at last year’s finals and thrice this season.
But Eggum can’t worry about Sanderson. He just needs to go out and do what he did at the Big Ten tourney last weekend — win big matches.
“If we happen to meet in the final, I’m hoping to wrestle a flawless match,” he said. “I just have to put it all together in one match.”
Minnesota coach J Robinson says Eggum has come too far during his time in a Gophers uniform to have doubts about going out against Sanderson.
“He’s sitting right at the door,” Robinson said. “If he’s going to close out his career (on top), he has got to wrestle one of the best kids in the nation.”
He added Eggum can’t take a back seat to Sanderson, and will have to go out and wrestle aggressively if he wants to win a national championship.
“His margin for error is very small,” Robinson said. “When (Eggum’s) on, he’s on, when he’s moving and shooting, he’s hard to beat. He cannot let anybody at the tournament slow him down.”
Beyond a personal championship, Eggum and the Gophers will be gunning for the first team championship in school history.
Eggum is the lone Gopher to start all four years at Minnesota. His experience will be vital for a team with only three seniors competing in the tournament.
“He’s a great role model, he’s a hard worker. He’s all those things you ask for in a team captain.” Robinson said. “He is a leader.”
And in an individual sport like wrestling, many athletes would rather win a personal championship.
Eggum is different. To him a team title would mean just as much — especially because Minnesota has never won one.
It’s a topic that comes up all the time between teammates, said Eggum. In the summer, when the team goes out at night, and after practices — winning the national championship is something the entire team wants to accomplish.
“It’s the thing we always end up talking about — winning the team title,” Eggum said. “We’ve focused on it so long, it’s something that would really mean a lot to me.”
And if Eggum wants any extra motivation for nationals, he just has to picture himself finishing his career without a national championship.
Anything less would be a blemish on his record.

John R. Carter covers wrestling and welcomes comments at [email protected]