MINNEAPOLIS — In 2001, the University of Minnesota wrestling team broke new ground for the program, capturing the first national championship in school history. Minnesota will honor the 2001 National Championship team as it celebrates the tenth anniversary of its monumental win this Friday during the Gophers dual against Indiana.
The 2001 NCAA Wrestling Championships will long be remembered as a national tournament with impressive firsts and as a stunning breakthrough for the Gophers. The venue, Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa, was labeled as the “lion’s den” and served as an ideal location for the eventual storybook result. That result, an improbable one, vaulted Minnesota into the national spotlight, long reserved for the Iowas and Oklahoma States of the world. And the way in which the Gophers captured the 2001 NCAA crown can be appropriately classified as groundbreaking and extraordinary.
Unorthodox? Yes, the road to the national title for Minnesota was not typical of the path taken in years past by NCAA champion teams. Remarkable? You bet. Fans and followers of collegiate wrestling will look back at the 2001 NCAA Championships as a national tournament with unprecedented qualities. Record breaking? In more ways than one. The Golden Gophers broke several school and national records along the way to the national crown. A full team effort? Without a doubt. The national title was won for the Maroon and Gold grapplers, not on the backs of two or three dominant individuals, but through the hard work, will and determination of all 10 members of the squad.
Minnesota won the national crown by utilizing a full team effort to earn an NCAA-record 10 All-Americans. It was the first time in NCAA championships history that 10 wrestlers from the same team had earned the prestigious All-American honor in one NCAA tournament. In addition, no team in the history of the national tournament had won the team title without a finalist, but Gold Country captures the national crown despite not placing a single wrestler in the championship matches.
“We knew that the only way that we could win the title was to have a team effort. We knew that we couldn’t win with a lot of ones and twos, but we thought we could win with 10 All-Americans. And that’s what we did,” Minnesota head coach J Robinson, now in his 25th year with the team, said. “Everybody earned this championship. Everybody. That was the key.”
Minnesota Golden Gopher 2001All-Americans:
125: Leroy Vega (Portage, Ind.) – Second at Big Tens, Third at NCAAs
133: Brett Lawrence (Sandpoint, Idaho) – Fifth at Big Tens, Eighth at NCAAs
141: Chad Erickson (Apple Valley, Minn.) – Second at Big Tens, Eighth at NCAAs
149: Jared Lawrence (Sandpoint, Idaho) – First at Big Tens, Sixth at NCAAs
157: Luke Becker (Cambridge, Minn.) – Second at Big Tens, Fourth at NCAAs
165: Brad Pike (Brownsdale, Minn.) – Third at Big Tens, Fourth at NCAAs
174: Jacob Volkmann (Henning, Minn.) – Fourth at Big Tens, Fourth at NCAAs
184: Damion Hahn (Lakewood, N.J.) – Third at Big Tens, Fifth at NCAAs
197: Owen Elzen (Eyota, Minn.) – Third at Big Tens, Third at NCAAs
285: Garrett Lowney (Freedom, Wisc.) – First at Big Tens, Third at NCAAs
Concordia College will be competing against Calumet College prior to the Gopher’s match against Indiana at the Sports Pavilion. Calumet College is coached by former Gopher standout Leroy Vega.
The Concordia vs Calumet dual is at 5 pm. The Minnesota vs Indiana dual is at 7 pm.