On Saturday morning, Gopher Wrestling welcomed family, friends, and fans into the wrestling room, figuratively speaking. The open practice drew too large of an audience to be hosted in the actual wrestling room. Instead, the team worked out in the Bierman Gym on the other side of the building.
The enthusiastic onlookers got exactly what they were promised on Saturday, with every healthy Gopher wrestler spending much of the session wrestling live matches, providing a sneak peek of what to expect from the coming season.
“The open practice was great from the standpoint that guys were wrestling in front of a crowd and we had good attendance, so that’s exciting. That adds a little bit to it, makes the live matches more realistic,” said head coach Brandon Eggum. “The fans and the support there was awesome. It was very positive, a lot of energy for the season to start. It was a good day.”
The coaching staff used the open practice as a chance to mimic some of the tournament conditions wrestlers will see as soon as this Sunday at the Daktronics Open, putting them in multiple matches after asking them all to weigh-in prior to wrestling.
“We had the guys get down close to weight and you could see some guys managed that better than others. It makes it more difficult and you can see it. That’s part of the process of getting them ready,” said Eggum. “It was great to see their effort and the way the guys competed. There were some weights we think could potentially have some solid wrestle-offs, and we watched those matches closely. Overall, the guys did great.”
The crowd was also given insights into this year’s team by Eggum and other Gopher coaches, who worked a microphone around the mat and narrated much of the day’s action.
Saturday was the second time in as many days that Gopher Wrestling showcased the program for in-person audiences. On Friday, the team hosted its annual Coaches’ Clinic, featuring expert instruction from not only the current coaching staff, but also from Mark Schwab, Reece Humphrey and Gopher great Jared Lawrence.
The start of Minnesota’s season is now less than a week away. Most of the Gopher lineup will start the year on Sunday at the Daktronics Open at South Dakota State University, while Brett Pfarr will travel to Cleveland for a Saturday night match in the NWCA All-Star Classic.