Big Ten dominates nationals

Allison Younge

CLEVELAND — The Big Ten dominated top honors at the 1998 NCAA Wrestling Championships. Six national champions were crowned from Big Ten schools, including athletes from Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State.
Of the tournament’s 80 All-Americans, 34 hailed from the Big Ten. The Big 12 came in second with three national champions and 13 All-Americans.
Chattering Hawkeye
On the first day of the tournament, entering his fourth and final match of the day, Gophers sophomore Brandon Eggum’s competitive spirit was revived. Looking to avenge a one-point loss to Iowa’s Paul Jenn at home during the regular season, Eggum took control of his Hawkeye rival and the match by scoring a technical fall in 6:58.
After the bout, Gophers coach J Robinson revealed where Eggum’s revitalized attitude came from.
“I guess Jenn made some kind of comment about running Eggum out of gas. (Gophers assistant coach) Joe Russell cut it out of the paper and Brandon has carried it around in his wallet ever since,” Robinson said. “Revenge can have a very positive effect.”
Give him a Hand
After capturing third place, Gophers heavyweight Shelton Benjamin caught the crowd’s attention by exiting the mat with a perfect back flip.
While the acrobatics were appreciated, Benjamin scored bigger points with his coaches, teammates and fans in a previous match by pinning Iowa’s Wes Hand for the second time this season. On Jan. 18 in Iowa City, Benjamin pinned Hand to give Minnesota its first-ever National Dual Meet title. This time, even though Benjamin wasn’t intent on pinning Hand again, he succeeded in obliging his audience and earning an extra point for the team.
“I wasn’t planning on pinning him; I was planning on beating him,” Benjamin said. “I knew that he was kind of a sucker for a lot of moves. There was a lot on the line personally. That was motivation for me, plus we needed the points.”
Smith brother antics
While in the end, Minnesota edged top-ranked Oklahoma State by 2.5 points to capture second place at the national tournament, the team race was actually even closer. On the final day, two points were deducted from Oklahoma State’s score.
Cowboys 177-pounder Mark Smith lost his third-place match, his cool and a team point with his post-match gestures to the opposing crowd. His older brother, Oklahoma State coach John Smith, also received a one-point deduction for arguing with officials. Without the deductions, the Gophers would’ve topped the Cowboys by only half a point.