The “M” Club inducted 11 former Gopher student-athletes into its Hall of Fame earlier this week and two Gopher Wrestling greats we among the honored. Pat Neu, the 1977 national champion at 134 pounds and Jared Lawrence, who became the program’s first national champ and four-time All-American along with teammate and current Gopher head assistant coach Luke Becker, became the 19th and 20th Gopher wrestlers added to the Hall of Fame.
When reflecting on his induction into the Hall of Fame, Lawrence shared with a capacity crowd in the DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium that he owes much of his success to his parents and his older brother, Gopher All-American Brett Lawrence.
Growing up in northern Idaho, “we drove three or four hours every weekend,” to wrestling tournaments around the region, Lawrence said. “It’s amazing the sacrifices that my parents made, driving us every weekend from January to June. That’s your Friday night, that’s your Saturday night.”
The sacrifices of his parents and guidance of his brother helped mold Lawrence into a young man that would become one of the most-accomplished wrestlers in program history. During the years in which Minnesota cemented its place as a wrestling powerhouse, Lawrence was one of the team’s top performers. The 2002 national champion at 149 pounds and a two-time Big Ten champion, Lawrence posted a 130-23 career record and contributed to three consecutive Big Ten team titles for the Gophers, as well as first two national titles in program history.
Neu focused his remarks on Thursday night to what wrestling did for him off the mat. “It made me a better person,” he said. “It taught me to be very aware of details. Details are very important. In business, you have to be very detail-oriented to be at the top,” a skill he first learned wrestling for Head Coach Wally Johnson.
“It’s an unbelievable honor to be recognized as one of the elite athletes,” in program history, Neu said as he accepted his award.
Neu built an impressive 136-32 career record, but he is best known for his unexpected run to the 1977 national title. After finishing as the Big Ten’s runner-up for the second straight year, Neu entered the NCAA tournament unseeded and went on a spectacular match to the 134-pound crown. His effort helped the Gophers place fourth in the country, the highest finish in program history to that point.
In addition to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday night, Lawrence, Neu and the rest of the freshly minted Hall-of-Famers attended the Gopher men’s hockey game on Friday night and the Homecoming football game on Saturday, where they were recognized with standing ovations.
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