May 31, 2016
The University of Minnesota "M" Club, one of the nation's oldest and largest alumni letterwinner organizations, today announced its Hall of Fame Class of 2016, a group which includes 11 former student-athletes who represented 10 different Gopher teams. The newest group of hall-of-famers will be officially inducted during the "M" Club's annual Hall of Fame banquet, which will be held in the DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium on October 20.
"Earning a varsity letter and the opportunity to proudly wear the M on your chest is an accomplishment that brings pride to someone for the rest of his or her life," said "M" Club director George Adzick. "To be recognized as not just a letterwinner, but as one of the greatest letterwinners in the history of Gopher Athletics, is an honor reserved for a very select few. I am delighted for the 11 newest members of our Hall of Fame and excited to be there as their names are placed forever among other Minnesota legends."
The 2016 "M" Club Hall of Fame class includes:
- Greg Eslinger (Football) - Two-time consensus First Team All-American, 2005 Outland Trophy (nation's best interior lineman) and Rimington Trophy (nation's best center) recipient.
- Dave Gumlia (Men's Golf) - The program's first two-time All-American and a key player on Minnesota's 1963 Big Ten championship team.
- Tim Harrer (Men's Hockey) - First Team All-American and WCHA Player of the Year; only person to score 50 or more goals in a season in program history.
- Amber Hegland (Softball and Women's Hockey) - Four-time All-Big Ten, All-American, holds program's career batting average record. Recorded 35 points in 36 games in one season playing hockey.
- MaryAnne Kelley (Women's Gymnastics) - Three-time All-American and First Team All-Big Ten; second Gopher gymnast ever named Big Ten Gymnast of the Year (2002).
- Jared Lawrence (Wrestling) - Individual national champion and four-time All-American, one of just six wrestlers in program history to accomplish both.
- Howard Nathe (Baseball) - All-Big Ten as both a pitcher and an outfielder; helped Minnesota win 1960 national title by playing both positions.
- Pat Neu (Wrestling) - National champion during a 44-6 senior season; two-time Big Ten finalist.
- Al Nuness (Men's Basketball) - Two-time All-Big Ten player and the first African-American, full-time coach at the University of Minnesota.
- Clay Strother (Men's Gymnastics) - Four-time individual national champion and 11-time All-American; competed for Team USA at the 2006 World Championships.
- Jeff Wright (Football) - First Team All-Big Ten and program's single-game, single-season and career interceptions record co-holder; played seven season for the Minnesota Vikings.
In addition to these inductees, two great Gopher contributors will be recognized during the event.
Long-time equipment manager Dick Mattson will receive the Distinguished Service Award for his 48 years working in Gopher Athletics, including 32 as the head equipment supervisor for the football program.
Dick Jonckowski, who has been the public address announcer for Gopher basketball, baseball and football during his lengthy career, recently completed his 30th season as the voice of Gopher Basketball at Williams Arena. He will receive an Honorary Letter from the "M" Club.
The membership of the "M" Club Hall of Fame is displayed on a wall within the T. Denny Sanford Athletics Hall of Fame inside TCF Bank Stadium. Including this year's 11-member class, the Hall of Fame now honors 345 Gopher student-athletes from 27 different varsity sports. Each member of the Hall of Fame is recognized with an engraved plate on the wall.
The Hall of Fame induction process begins with a research committee which pores over the careers of Gopher Athletics' alums from all eras and determines a group of approximately two dozen names to appear on each year's Hall of Fame ballot. Former and current coaches, athletics administrators and all University letterwinners are eligible to receive a ballot and vote for who they believe should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
More information on each member of the 2016 "M" Club Hall of Fame class is included below, listed alphabetically by last name.
Greg Eslinger (Football, 2002-05) - The most-decorated offensive lineman in Gopher Football history, Eslinger was a versatile center who led the way for a unit that helped Minnesota go to four consecutive bowl games and rack up some of the program's most impressive offensive numbers ever. Eslinger is one of just two Gophers to ever earn First Team All-Big Ten honors three times in his career. He was also a two-time consensus First Team All-American and, as a senior, won both the Outland Trophy (nation's best interior lineman) and the Rimington Trophy (nation's best center). He was also twice selected as an Academic All-American.
Dave Gumlia (Men's Golf, 1963-65) - It had been 25 years since the Gophers captured the Big Ten championship in men's golf before Gumlia led the team to the title in 1963, the same year he earned the first of his two All-America honors. Gumlia finished as the conference's runner-up that season, the beginning of three consecutive second-place finishes at the Big Ten tournament as an individual. In addition to his consistency at the conference level, Gumlia also was the first Gopher golfer to become a two-time All-American ('63, '65).
Tim Harrer (Men's Hockey, 1977-80) - The Gophers knew they had something special in Harrer from his first season in the lineup, after which he was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year, however; it was his final season in Maroon and Gold that sealed his legacy. Harrer was named the WCHA Player of the Year and a First Team All-American in 1980 after scoring 53 goals, a program record that stands to this day. He is still the only Gopher to post a 50-goal season. Upon graduation, he was second in program history in both career goals (117) and points (201), behind only the great John Mayasich.
Amber Hegland (Softball, 1995-98; Women's Hockey, 1998-99) - A two-sport standout, Hegland is best known for the records she still holds on the softball diamond. To this day, she is Minnesota's all-time leader in career batting average and doubles, marks she built while becoming one of just two Gophers all-time to earn All-Big Ten honors in four seasons. Hegland hit .438 in 1996, which ranks as the highest average for a player in the NCAA era. She was also a four-time All-Region selection and a Second Team All-American ('96). In addition to her softball accomplishments, Hegland played a season of women's hockey at Minnesota, scoring 35 points in the 36 games in 1998-99.
MaryAnne Kelley (Women's Gymnastics, 1999-2002) - Prior to the 2002 season, only one female Gopher gymnast had ever been named the conference's Gymnast of the Year. That changed when Kelley earned the award that season, a year in which she won the NCAA Regional title on floor exercise and took fourth in the nation, while also placing fifth in the all-around at the national meet. Her contributions helped the Gophers to the program's best-ever finish at NCAAs that spring. Kelley was a three-time First Team All-Big Ten performer, as well as a three-time All-American, during her Gopher career.
Jared Lawrence (Wrestling, 2000-03) - 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. On the national stage, Lawrence helped Minnesota win the first two national titles in program history and - along with teammate and fellow Hall-of-Famer Luke Becker - became the first Gopher to be both a four-time All-American and an individual national champion.
Howard Nathe (Baseball, 1959-61) - Whether it was on the mound or in the outfield, Nathe was a standout for the Gophers. He played both positions in 1960, helping the Gophers win the program's second national title that season. He was named First Team All-Big Ten as a pitcher that year, a campaign in which he hurled a four-hitter during the College World Series. For his career, Nathe was 14-4 for the Gophers, including 13 complete games. In 1961, coming off his all-conference season toeing the rubber, Nathe was named All-Big Ten in the outfield and team MVP.
Pat Neu (Wrestling, 1973-77) - While building an impressive 136-32 career record is an achievement that commands attention, it was the lack of attention on Neu that made his 1977 season one of the greatest in Gopher wrestling history. 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 run to claim the 134-pound national title. His effort helped the Gophers place fourth in the country, the highest finish in program history to that point, and one that would remain the program's high-water mark until 1997.
Al Nuness (Men's Basketball, 1968-69) - In two seasons with the Gophers, Nuness averaged more than 15 points per game and was twice named All-Big Ten. Nuness was also named the team's MVP following his senior season. After his playing career ended, Nuness went on to become the first African-American in a full-time coaching position at the University of Minnesota, working for head coach Bill Musselman for two seasons. Nuness also has twice served on the NCAA Executive Committee for the Final Four.
Clay Strother (Men's Gymnastics, 2000-03) - A multiple-time national champion in multiple events, Strother is one of the most accomplished gymnasts in the history of the Gopher program. Strother was a two-time First Team All-Big Ten honoree and an 11-time All-American during his Minnesota career, but he is best known for winning back-to-back national titles in both the pommel horse and floor exercise ('01, '02). His four national championships are the second-most in school history, and his 11 All-America medals rank third. After graduating, Strother went on to compete for Team USA in the 2006 World Championships.
Jeff Wright (Football, 1968-70) - Teams passing against the Gophers in the late 60s had to be aware of Wright's presence in the secondary. Wright set the program record for most interceptions in a game, in a season and in a career. To this day, he remains tied for most single-game and career interceptions while holding sole possession of the single-season interceptions record. Wright was named both the team MVP and a First Team All-Big Ten performer in 1970. He would go on to play seven seasons for the Minnesota Vikings (1971-77), appearing in three Super Bowls and accumulating 21 career takeaways.
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