Luke Becker came to the Gopher program as one of the most prized high school recruits in the country. The three-time state champion amassed 210 career wins at Cambridge-Isanti (Minn.) High School were the most in Minnesota state history to that point and the Gopher staff expected him to compete for a starting position immediately after his redshirt season.
“Minnesota was on the rise. There were a lot of good things happening here when they began recruiting me,” said Becker. Though staying at home may have added pressure to perform, Becker embraced it. “Being able to stay home and wrestle for your home state and help build something great, that was exciting for me.”
Not only did Becker compete for and win that position, he quickly established himself as one of the best 157-pounders in the nation. Becker finished sixth as a redshirt freshman, earning All-America recognition. That podium finish, which would be the highlight of many collegiate careers, was just a starting point for Becker.
Becker added a fourth-place finish the following season before reaching the very top of his weight class in 2002, winning an individual Big Ten title before earning the national title to help Minnesota capture its second straight National Championship.
“Obviously 2001 was unbelievable, to win a national title and to win it the way we did with 10 All-Americans. In 2002, it wasn’t just about finding a way to win that first title anymore. It went from focusing on winning the title as a team to guys winning individuals titles. We had the talent and we knew the team thing would take care of itself. It’s pretty amazing what we were able to do, when you look back it,” said Becker.
After adding a second Big Ten title in 2003, Becker made it a perfect four-for-four at NCAAs, picking up his fourth All-America finish as a senior. Becker and teammate Jared Lawrence graduated as the first four-time All-Americans to win individual national titles in program history.
In addition to his celebrated individual resume, Becker contributed to some of the most legendary teams in the history of Gopher Wrestling. He wrestled for back-to-back-to-back Big Ten Championships teams (2001-03) and also played a major role in the program’s first two national titles (2001, 2002).
“I think some of our success can be attributed the class of Tim Hartung, Chad Kraft, Brandon Eggum, those guys. They built this thing and helped us realize that winning national titles was possible,” said Becker. “Things didn’t quite turn out for them as a team, but our success was because of them. They set the stage for us and we took it from there.”
Even today, more than a decade after his last match for the Gophers, several of Becker’s career marks remain among the best ever for a Minnesota wrestler, including his 126 wins, 60 dual wins, and 29 pins.
Becker immediately joined the Gopher staff following graduation and has worked his way up to his current head assistant coach position over the course of the past 14 years. He began as the team’s marketing and promotions coordinator before becoming a volunteer coach and then an assistant coach for the previous seven seasons.
“When I tell people about our program, I’m not just telling them what I’ve been told. I’ve lived through it,” said Becker. “From a freshman, to a senior, to a grad assistant, to a volunteer, to an assistant, I’ve worked through the ranks. I know this program and I know what it means to the state of Minnesota.”
Since taking on a coaching role with the program, Becker has coached 18 different All-Americans, a collective that has claimed 41 All-America finishes at the national tournament. That stable also won six individual conference titles and three National Championships.
As a wrestler, Becker was an integral piece on some of the greatest teams the Gophers have ever put on the mat. As a coach, he’s continued that legacy by helping train some of the latest Gopher legends. Looking ahead, he sees the opportunity to do so much more.
“I love the University of Minnesota. I love coaching, but I love coaching here. This is where I want to be,” said Becker. “There’s something special about this place. It’s exciting to spend every day in the room working with guys who want to get us back to the top again.”