As members of the Gophers wrestling team gather in the coaches’ office Wednesday afternoon, the tone shifts and the razzing begins. The debate involves Brandon Eggum’s current nicknames — and it’s the 177-pound sophomore against everyone else.
Overhearing the ruckus, Minnesota’s coach J Robinson laughs out loud, and continues on to explain the scene.
“The guys love to tease him. The thing about him is that he is so honest; what people say he believes,” Robinson said. “That allows his buddies to suck him in on anything — and they love it.”
Although Eggum said he would prefer that his nicknames remain a secret, his straightforward personality is clearly evident when he speaks about wrestling. In his second season starting for the Gophers, Eggum is 17-0 and ranked fifth in the nation weighing in at 177 pounds. While gaining acclaim, the Gophers’ sturdy sophomore keeps his early success in perspective.
“It’s nice to look at my record and see that I have zero losses, but I don’t measure myself up with my record,” Eggum said. “I measure myself up with the people I wrestle.”
This weekend, at the National Duals Championship Meet (Iowa City, Iowa) Eggum could meet three of the top four contenders in his weight class. Second-ranked Aaron Simpson (Arizona State), third-ranked John Withrow (Pittsburgh) and fourth-ranked John Van Doren (Lehigh) are expected to compete at 177 pounds for their respective teams.
While Eggum has dominated most of his open and dual meet opponents so far this season, he has gained invaluable experience wrestling his own highly ranked teammates everyday in the Gophers practice room. He’s used to being challenged, and actually prefers it over winning an easy match.
“I get less nervous when I’m wrestling guys ranked above me because I feel less pressure,” Eggum said. “It’s a little more exciting trying to go out there and knock someone off.”
As Eggum continues to add winning marks to his record, the number of higher-ranked opponents in his weight class is decreasing.
Eggum began the season at No. 10 at 177 pounds, and has moved up five places as a result of his spotless record. Robinson thinks that Eggum, as a sophomore, already possesses several advantages over his 177-pound opponents.
“Physically, he’s way above everyone else,” Robinson said. “He’s got power, speed and balance — he’s got it all. He’s what you might call a total package kid.”
Being bigger and stronger than a majority of his opponents has given Eggum an edge in competition, but it’s not his only weapon. Devoted to improvement through continuous practice and training, Eggum almost seems addicted to the grueling sport.
“Wrestling is always on my mind,” Eggum said. “If I’m in the wrestling room I’m thinking about trying to get better. A lot of times I’m thinking about it when I’m at home or wherever, trying to eat better and get more rest — anything to make myself a better wrestler.”
That foresight has led the Gophers sophomore to envision this season in the best-case scenario. For Eggum, as for almost every Division I wrestler, the ultimate goal is a national title.
“You take it one match at a time, but when it’s over, if I could be undefeated, that would be a great accomplishment for the year,” Eggum said. “That’s something that I think is possible if I wrestle well and things work my way.”
Although his trusting personality has made him a victim of harmless ridicule from his teammates and coaches, Eggum — just like he does on the mat — usually has a counterattack already in mind.
“He’s also got a quick wit about him that he’ll get you back,” Robinson said. “He’ll nail you in the end.”