The “M” Club, one of the oldest and largest letterwinners clubs in the nation, welcomed the 14 newest members to its Hall of Fame on Thursday night in the DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium. The event celebrated the accomplishments of an eclectic group of Gopher greats whose playing careers spanned eight different decades and nine different Gopher programs.
Two wrestlers were among the inductees – Luke Becker and Clifton Gustafson.
Luke Becker (2000-2003) — Prior to Becker’s career at Minnesota, no Gopher grappler had been a four-time All-American and a national champion, the latter of which Becker achieved in 2002. To this day, he is one of just six to have achieved both. In addition to his individual honors, Becker was also a key contributor to three-straight Big Ten team titles (2001-03) and the first two national titles in program history (2001, 2002). Since his wrestling career ended, Becker has been a part of Minnesota’s coaching staff, where he presently serves as assistant coach. During his time on the staff, Becker has worked with more than 50 All-Americans and six national champions.
Clifton Gustafson (1936-1938) — One of the earliest stars in Gopher wrestling history, Gustafson was the program’s first multiple-time All-American, finishing third at heavyweight at the 1937 NCAA tournament and then finishing as runner-up the following season. Gustafson was also a two-time finalist at the Big Ten tournament, winning the conference title in 1937 and finishing as the runner-up in 1938. Beyond his accomplishments in conference and NCAA events, Gustafson won the 1938 AAU national championship.
“The `M’ Club Hall of Fame Ceremony is our annual marquee event, providing us a chance to celebrate Golden Gopher student-athletes who set the highest standards for athletic achievement, both at the University of Minnesota and nationally,” said George Adzick, “M” Club director. “These athletes are the best of our best and it is a privilege to honor those who have created so many special moments and memories in the history of Gopher athletics by forever enshrining them in The “M” Club Hall of Fame.”
This year’s University of Minnesota “M” Club class of inductees:
- Luke Becker (Wrestling) – National Champion, four-time All-American and a key contributor to the program’s first two NCAA titles.
- Ronda Curtin (Women’s Hockey) – Program’s first two-time All-American, 2002 WCHA Player of the Year.
- Chris Darkins (Football and Track) – Minnesota’s single-game rushing record holder, top-five in career rushing yards and 1996 Big Ten champion in 55-meter dash.
- Roland DePaul (Men’s Hockey) – All-American and three-time team scoring leader.
- Olga (Splichalova) Espinosa (Women’s Swimming) – Seven-time All-American, three-time Big Ten champion and two-time Czech Olympian.
- Brent Gates (Baseball) – All-American and 1991 Big Ten Player of the Year, currently second on Minnesota’s career batting average list.
- Clifton Gustafson (Wrestling) – Big Ten champion and first two-time All-American in program history.
- Jack Manders (Football) – Two-time All-American and three-time All-Pro during NFL career.
- Dick Meredith (Men’s Hockey) – NCAA All-Tournament team honoree and two-time U.S. Olympian.
- Jennie (Moe) Coughlin (Women’s Tennis) – First three-time, First Team All-Big Ten performer in program history and leader in career double wins and career overall wins.
- Dave Odegard (Track and Field) – First All-American hurdler at Minnesota and two-time Big Ten champion.
- Joey Ray (Men’s Gymnastics) – Six-time Big Ten champion, including four-time parallel bar champion, and 1984 Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient.
- Bill “Buzz” Schneider (Men’s Hockey) – Leader on Minnesota’s first NCAA championship team and two-time U.S. Olympian.
- Byrl Thompson (Track and Field) – Two-time Big Ten champion in discus and alternate for 1948 U.S. Olympic team.
In addition to highlighting the exceptional careers of those heading into the Hall of Fame, the event also recognized all members of the Hall of Fame in attendance and showcased student-athletes who earned a varsity letter in 1965, honoring them with a 50-year letterwinner pin during an on-stage presentation.
Earlier in the evening, this year’s induction class attended a brief ceremony in the T. Denny Sanford Athletics Hall of Fame on the ground level of TCF Bank Stadium. There, plaques for each of the 14 inductees were unveiled on a wall recognizing the entire roster of the Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame, with exhibits dedicated to all 25 Gopher teams, is open to the public during special events and for two hours prior to and one hour after every Gopher home football game. Admission is free.
The induction of 2015 class brings the total number of Gophers enshrined in the “M” Club Hall of Fame to 334 individuals across 27 different varsity programs.
Wrestlers/coaches previously inducted into the “M” Club Hall of Fame:
- Verne Gagne
- Dale Hanson
- Tim Hartung
- Julian Hook
- Evan Johnson
- Wally Johnson
- Lew Kennedy
- Chad Kraft
- Garth Lappin
- Leonard ‘Butch’ Levy
- Marty Morgan
- Dick Mueller
- Alan Rice
- John Whitaker
- Dan Zilverberg
- Larry Zilverberg