The defending national champion Golden Gopher wrestling team enjoyed an eventful day in Washington, D.C. Friday, as they commemorated their NCAA victory with stops at the Capitol Building, Pentagon and a ceremony at the White House with President George W. Bush.
The 2006-07 championship squad, along with several athletics administration and team staff members, were treated to tours of some our nation’s most important landmarks before ending their day by commemorating their third NCAA championship on the lawn outside the White House.
The team’s day began at 8 a.m. sharp, as they received a tour of the Capitol Building as guests of former House Speaker (and current Illinois state representative) Dennis Hastert. Hastert, a former high school wrestling coach, was also instrumental in arranging the team’s previous visit to the White House in 2001. The Gophers visited Hastert’s office as well as the House chamber until about 11 a.m.
One of the day’s highlights was a police escort that shuttled the Gopher delegation between their stops at the Pentagon and White House, allowing them to circumvent the normally heavy D.C. traffic. After a brief Pentagon tour, the group headed to the White House at approximately 12:30 p.m. for that afternoon’s ceremony. Seven other NCAA champion squads were also present at the commemoration, including the two-time College World Series champion Oregon State baseball team and the defending NCAA champion Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team.
At the White House, the Minnesota delegation toured several of the structure’s most noted rooms, including the Blue Room, Library and State Dining Room. After team members posed for a photo with President Bush, the entire crowd was brought to the South Lawn for that afternoon’s presentation. The championship teams entered the lawn and were introduced as the President’s Band played each school’s fight song.
Two-time NCAA champion Cole Konrad and the other team champion captains were allowed a personal 20-minute audience with the President before the ceremony began. The team captains also walked onto the podium with the President himself, standing next to the country’s chief executive during his speech.
“I’m honored to be among the nation’s finest student-athletes,” said President Bush during his roughly 10-minute address. “These people set high standards both on and off the field, and work hard to achieve the goals they set for themselves.”
After the President’s remarks ended their White House stay, the team made stops at the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial before their late Friday evening flight to Minneapolis.
The Gopher wrestling team has now visited the White House and President Bush on two separate occasions, the other following the program’s first national championship in 2001.
The 2007-08 Gopher wrestling season opens on Nov. 10 when Minnesota partakes in the 2007 Bison Open, hosted by North Dakota State. The defending national champions return to Williams Arena for their home opener Dec. 2.
Be sure to check back at gophersports.com later this week for an exclusive account of the Gophers' trip to Washington, D.C., courtesy of former Athletic Communications staff member Tory Kukowski.