Minnesota Is Out-Performing Expectations In 2016-17 Season
But through everything that the Gophers had to endure, they've stayed the course and remained focused. Under the tutelage of Brandon Eggum, who's in his first year as Minnesota's head coach, the Gophers battled week in and week out to finish the season ranked 10th as a team and with wrestlers ranked in eight of the 10 weight classes.
The Gophers early struggles were predictable. A lineup with just two seniors was bound to go through the typical ebbs and flows that are synonymous with young teams competing in the Big 10.
"Even in the tough duals, we've had some good things happen," Eggum said. "It's been a tough season. We had a challenging home season and hosted all the top five teams. But the guys have continued to believe in themselves, and it's really paid off."
Despite its up-and-down results, Minnesota saw its determination rewarded with nine of the Gophers' 10 wrestlers receiving automatic bids to the NCAA tournament on March 16-18 in St. Louis.
"Bobby [Steveson] and Chris [Pfarr] really stepped up at the Big Ten tournament," he said. "Bobby could have hung his head and gave up when he was down in the first round but he didn't and that's really a testament to him. 184 is a tough weight class, and he had tough competition every week with the schedule we had so he really stepped up with how he performed at Big Tens.
"For them, confidence-wise, it was great. They've got the skills and ability, so that belief that they've kept throughout the season is what gave us the ability to have a couple more guys make it to the tournament."
As the Gophers get ready to head to St. Louis, it's Eggum's history with the program -- which stretches over 20 years as both an athlete and a coach -- that is helping the team stay on track.
"The work is done," he said. "I've been here for over 20 years and the foundation has been put in place for them to succeed. We've also got great leaders in Brett Pfarr and Michael Kroells, who are helping to keeping the team light, relaxed, and in the moment. So all we are doing as coaches is making sure they rest and preparing them for their matchups. But they're excited to get out there, and I can't wait to see them put it all together."
Gophers By The Numbers:National Ranking: 10
NCAA Qualifiers: 9
Ranked Wrestlers: 8
Highest Ranked Wrestler: #2 Brett Pfarr