Logan Storley had big shoes to fill as a seventh grader wrestling at Webster High School in South Dakota.
Those expectations followed him four hours east of home to the University of Minnesota last year.
Storley, the top 174-pound college wrestler in the nation as a sophomore, hails from the same hometown as Brock Lesnar, a former NCAA champion with the Gophers.
Lesnar was also a feared champion in the World Wrestling Entertainment and Ultimate Fighting Championship realms.
Storley said he never got into Lesnar’s WWE career but said he still looked up to Lesnar as a kid in South Dakota.
“He came back to Webster a couple of times after he won his first NCAA title,” Storley said. “It was kind of cool having an NCAA champion from a town of 2,000 people.”
Now many in the college wrestling world are comparing Storley to Lesnar. Storley has had an immediate impact on the Gophers, and he recently beat the nation’s No. 2 and No. 3 wrestlers to help Minnesota win the National Duals title.
Storley started wrestling at age 5 under the guidance of John Schiley, the same man who coached Lesnar as a kid.
Schiley said he knew Storley was a gifted wrestler from the first time he stepped on the mat.
“His mom came up to me after his very first practice … and I told her, ‘He’s the best I’ve ever seen,’” Schiley said.
Storley said Schiley had a big impact on his career, and under his tutelage he won his first title in second grade.
“That’s all it took,” Storley said. “I was hooked.”
Storley continued his success in South Dakota and wrestled as a seventh grader on the Webster varsity squad. He won a state title in his first year on varsity and took on a leadership role as an eighth grader.
The Gophers took notice after that, and having Lesnar on the team helped.
“We had a little knowledge of Logan even when he was a kid because he’s from the same town as Brock Lesnar,” assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “I was an athlete here, and I knew the name Logan Storley.”
Eggum has since transitioned from wrestler to coach. He said as soon as the team was allowed to recruit Storley, it went after him hard.
“It makes me feel kind of old,” Eggum said. “It’s fun to look back on those days and realize they were young then, and now they end up making it to the big time.”
Storley expressed interest in Nebraska, Oklahoma State and the Gophers, but he said in the end Minnesota was the right fit for him.
He’s been the right fit for the Gophers, too, a year and a half into his career.
Storley bucked the trend of redshirting freshmen wrestlers when he competed in his first year on campus. The Gophers redshirt most of their freshmen to give them more experience.
“He was adamant that he wanted to wrestle for us as a freshman,” Eggum said.
Storley got his wish after an impressive performance at last season’s Bison Open.
His success as a freshman stalled after a high-ankle sprain kept him out for weeks. But when Storley returned, he went undefeated in the Big Ten and earned All-America honors.
“He can be a four-time All American, no question, but he has the ability to win the next three [national] titles,” Eggum said. “He’s on pace this year, but he has to stay focused.”
That hasn’t been a problem for Storley yet.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m ranked or unranked,” Storley said. “I have one goal and that’s to be the national champion come end of March.”