Minnesota's Brett Pfarr looks to continue bringing heat to 197 pounds

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Dec. 28, 2016, 3:58 p.m. (ET)
 Brett Pfarr will likely see two-time NCAA champ and Olympic bronze
medalist J'den Cox at the Southern Scuffle. Photo: Univ. of Minnesota.
University of Minnesota wrestler Brett Pfarr is looking for the storybook ending of his collegiate wrestling career.

Over the past five years, the Gopher senior has gone from part-time starter to national title contender, making jumps every year.

“Throughout my whole life of wrestling, I’ve made little jumps here and there and started to place at State and All-American at Fargo. Even in college, it’s been the same thing, seeing progression every year. I put time in and it’s finally paying off,” he said.

Pfarr grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and was introduced to wrestling at a young age.

“My dad was a high school wrestler and I have an older brother, Matt, who wrestled as well. It was just a natural fit for me,” Pfarr said. “I started at 5 years old around kindergarten so I grew up with wrestling. My dad had a machine shed and he turned it into a wrestling room. We had a wrestling mat in there and started getting other weight equipment and workout stuff. By the time I was a senior in high school, it became a pretty good workout shed.”

Pfarr admits that he didn’t think much about wrestling at the Division I level until his final year of high school.

After going through the recruiting process, he narrowed his choices down to Minnesota and North Dakota State, both boasting great coaching staffs.

He ultimately decided to carry on the family tradition and attend Minnesota, a university that has been home to his dad, sister, older brother and now Brett and his younger brother, Chris, who is also a Gopher wrestler.

“I liked both schools and they both had great coaches,” Pfarr said. “Roger Kish is a U of M alum and J. Robinson at the time was the Minnesota head coach. I ultimately decided on Minnesota because of the tradition. One of my goals is to be a Big Ten champion and a national champion. I really believe that this is the place I can do it.”

Pfarr redshirted his first year and picked up four open tournament titles en route to a 28-5 record.

The following year, he was granted three starts for the Gophers and strung together another 25+ win season.

His sophomore season was when he really started to shine. The 184-pounder collected 10 dual wins in his 24-12 season and earned the No. 4 seed at the Big Ten Championships.

At the conference tournament, he advanced to the finals but fell to Michigan’s Domenic Abounader in a tight 7-6 match. However, the runner-up finish secured Pfarr’s place in the 2015 NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

In his NCAA tournament debut, Pfarr entered as the 11 seed but did not meet expectations, suffering close losses to Scott Patrick of Davidson and Hayden Zillmer of North Dakota State to finish 0-2.

Despite the rough end to his sophomore year, Pfarr made another jump during his junior campaign, moving up to 197 pounds and capturing All-America honors.

“It wasn’t like 184 was killing me, but I feel great at 197,” he said. “I’m eating great and having good nutrition. Most of all, I’m having fun when I compete. I go out there pretty relaxed and I just want to put up as many points as I can and put on a show for the fans and my teammates.”

He wrestled his way to a 40-4 record, becoming the tenth wrestler in Gopher history to record 40 wins in a season.

Among those 40 wins, 15 came over ranked opponents, including a 3-1 win over No. 11 Aaron Studebaker of Nebraska to finish third at the Big Ten Championships and a 2-1 decision over No. 3 Nathan Burak at Iowa to earn third at the NCAA tournament.

He had found his groove and was ready to take on the college field in his final season.

Pfarr entered his senior season under new leadership after a drug scandal forced coaching staff changes.

His mentor and reason for attending Minnesota, J. Robinson, was no longer in the wrestling room. But that hasn’t stopped Pfarr from training his hardest.

“There has been some change. J is a great guy and a great leader and I miss having him as a coach,” he said. “As far as our training goes, we bumped up four coaches who have been with the program for a while so it’s not a huge difference, but I definitely notice that his presence isn’t in the room anymore. I think good things will happen. We’re the same tough, hard-wrestling guys.”

He began the year at the All-Star Classic, where he defeated Brett Harner, an All-American from Princeton, 7-4.

Since then, he’s kept it rolling, compiling a 12-0 record.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing either. He’s already faced four ranked opponents, including No. 5 Nate Rotert of South Dakota State and No. 6 Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks.

On top of those matchups, Pfarr competed at the Cliff Keen Invite shortly after, where he went 5-0, winning every match by bonus points.

In the semis, he defeated No. 12 Kollin Moore of Ohio State to earn a spot in the finals. There, he met up with No. 3 Jared Haught of Virginia Tech, who he knocked off with a dominant 14-1 major decision.

He still has a tough season ahead of him but one that should prepare him well for the NCAA tournament in March.

“The Big Ten season is coming up and so is the Southern Scuffle so it’s really the brutal part of our season. It’s a good time to have this confidence, and I feel like I can beat anyone in the nation. It doesn’t matter who it is or what they’ve done so far. I’m excited,” Pfarr said.

The Gophers head to the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2 in Chattanooga, Tenn., to kick off 2017 with some of the best teams in the nation, including Missouri, Oklahoma State and Cornell.

The wrestling world is in for a treat as it may get to see a potential NCAA finals matchup a few months early with Pfarr and two-time NCAA champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox of Missouri entering the Scuffle field at 197 pounds.

“When people ask me about the season, the elephant in the room is J’den Cox,” Pfarr said. “He’s a two-time NCAA champion and an Olympic bronze medalist. He’s a tough guy to beat. I wrestled him twice and lost both matches. That’s why we wrestle these matches anyways. Nothing is set in stone until you go out and wrestle. I’m excited to get that matchup. I think I can really push him and can win this match.”

Above the wins and accolades up for grabs, the most important thing to Pfarr is enjoying his senior season.

“It’s pretty exciting being my senior year. The biggest thing is that I just want to make the most of each moment because I know next year when I’m watching my teammates compete, I’m really going to miss it. It doesn’t matter what the guy is ranked or if he’s not ranked at all, I’m just going to wrestle my hardest regardless. I’ve had a lot of good competition so far so it feels good to see that I’m doing so well. I have to make sure that I’m having fun. I like to smile, enjoy myself and joke around with the coaches before I step on the mat. Then I’m ready to go.”

Keep up with Pfarr and the Gophers on Jan. 1-2 by tuning into Flowrestling.org to catch all the Southern Scuffle action.