Wrestlers make their mark with successful season

By Christopher Loggins

Wrestling went just 6-10 on the season but put together a very successful postseason run, giving the team its best finish in some time.

Redshirt freshman Austin Eicher made history for the Huskies in the MAC Championships, becoming the team’s first player to make it to the MAC finals since 2013, and the first freshman to do so since 2008. Eicher was one of three Huskies who made it past the first round of the championships, including redshirt freshman Steve Bleise and junior Trace Engelkes, who both fell in the quarterfinals.

Eicher won a MAC Championship thanks to his stellar performance throughout the tournament, leading to him being sent to New York City for the NCAA Championships on March 17. He was joined by Bleise, junior Shawn Scott and redshirt senior Andrew Morse.

“First off, I’m super proud of Austin Eicher for bringing home the MAC title,” said head coach Ryan Ludwig following the MAC championships, according to an NIU Athletics news release. “Obviously that is every wrestler’s goal coming into these tournaments, and he was able to achieve it. I’m also extremely proud of the efforts of our three other NCAA qualifiers, Steve, Andrew and Shawn, who each showed great desire today by executing in matches, as well as Trace Engelkes, who finished with a win to claim fifth and boost his chances of getting an at-large bid.”

Scott was the only Huskie that made it past the first day of the NCAA Championships — he was the first unseeded NIU player to pick up a win in the tournament since 1993 and the 11th unseeded wrestler to beat a seeded wrestler in the national championships.

He came one win short of taking home All-American honors in the second day of matches, capping off a historic run for NIU. The Huskies ended the season tied for 50th place.

“[Scott] came here with the attitude and mindset to make his opponents earn their victories — and that’s what he did,” Ludwig said. “He definitely won’t apologize for his aggressive style. He can be proud of the way he competed. We learned some things against the nation’s elite here. We’ll evaluate and begin looking forward to next season. I’m also grateful for all of the hard work my assistant coaches have put in over this season to contribute to the gains of our program. NIU wrestling has a very bright future.”