Dieckhaus, Fanta fall short at NCAA nationals

By Mike Romor

Brad Dieckhaus’ wrestling career had all the makings of a storybook ending, but ended on a sour note.

Competing for a national title in St. Louis, Mo., near his hometown where he started his career years ago, was seemingly the perfect end to his NIU wrestling voyage.

In a bittersweet end, Dieckhaus fell victim to the injury that has plagued him since before his senior season even began.

After suffering a sprained ankle in the second round of his opening match at 184 against Binghamton’s Nathan Schiedel, Dieckhaus fought a gritty battle but fell short, 8-4.

Hardly able to walk under his own power, Dieckhaus made the decision to forfeit his wrestleback match.

“I realize I’ve got a lot of great people supporting me and God doesn’t make mistakes,” Dieckhaus said. “I’m just not satisfied; I don’t know how to explain it. It’s not the way I wanted it to end. It’s kind of just a bad feeling. I’m proud of my accomplishments, but not content, but that’s just part of it.”

Although his career ended abruptly, just finishing his opening match after a season that included a torn ACL and a knee surgery, on top of ankle injuries, was a true testament of Dieckhaus’ sheer determination.

“I’m hurting real bad for Brad,” said NIU coach Ryan Ludwig. “But he’s got nothing to hang his head about and he should be feeling nothing but pride. He had a great career at Northern Illinois and he’s done his best to get his body in the best shape it could be. Unfortunately, sometimes those things happen to great people.”

In his time as a Huskie, the squad’s captain was a MAC champion at 184, a two-time NCAA qualifier and became the first Huskie since 1965 to post an undefeated regular season, going 11-0.

Now leaving the program after being an integral part of its success over the past couple years, Dieckhaus was sure to give his coaches the credit and praise they deserve one final time.

“I think that the coaching staff is absolutely incredible here at Northern,” Dieckhaus said. “Ludwig kind of took me under his wing and he got me to the big stage. I had to play the cards I was dealt and not everything goes your way, but that’s just life. You get hit, you get up again. That’s sort of what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here and Ludwig has been right by my side and been a big part of my career physically and mentally. He made it an amazing experience to be a Huskie.”

Kevin Fanta saw his National Championship run end quickly, losing his opening match at 141 to Minnesota’s Nick Dardanes in a 12-4 major decision.

Fanta got out to a solid start, trailing Dardanes 2-1 after a relentless opening round. Dardanes stretched his lead to 5-1 in the second round, though, and Fanta could not catch up to the Golden Gopher. In his opening match of the wrestlebacks, Fanta’s fate was sealed. Iowa State’s Luke Goetti got the best of Fanta early on, pinning NIU’s standout sophomore 1:39 into the first round.

Fanta got out to an early lead in the match, but Goetti recovered from a takedown with an escape and quick takedown of his own, resulting in the winning pin.

“It was a good experience for me,” Fanta said. “It definitely showed me what my weaknesses are; I think that’s the main thing that was exposed.”