The UW-Eau Claire wrestling team played host and finished sixth out of six teams at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship Feb. 17 at the McPhee Center.
Though the Blugolds struggled, several positives came out of the weekend meet. Freshman Nathaniel Behnke went 2-1 at the meet and, with the regional tournament only two weeks away, was able to pick up momentum. He said beating his Platteville opponent was a big step for him.
“Beating him meant a lot to me personally, because now I have a better seed than him at the regional,” Behnke said.
Behnke, who leads the team in victories, said he tries to spark his team while also building confidence himself.
“Beating him made me think I could bring a spark to the rest of the team, because I am the second guy to wrestle [in the lineup],” he said.
However, that spark was short lived as the Blugolds fell to UW-Platteville 28-9.
The Blugold wrestlers found themselves in a matchup with familiar opponent UW-Oshkosh.
Junior Luke Ortscheid picked up a commanding win to conclude the prior match with UW-Platteville and said it’s always good to finish on a high note because of the message it sends their young team.
“Finishing strong shows those younger guys on the team that you must see every match through, and work hard till the end,” Ortscheid said.
Another member of the young Blugolds squad, freshman Matt Koch was named to the All-Sportsman team. The award signified Koch’s determination and positive intangibles throughout the season. Koch said it was an honor for him to be named to this team.
“Receiving this award means so much to me because it lets me know that even though it doesn’t always show in the win column, someone has recognized my hard work and effort,” Koch said.
The resiliency of the Blugolds was evident in the 5th place duel as the battle was tied 24-24 going into the final matchup.
In what turned out to be a back and forth contest the Blugolds came up just short and were forced to settle for 6th place in the WIAC.
With the Blugolds next meet being two weeks away, Ortscheid said that the team must train harder than ever in the coming weeks and take the experience gained from the conference meet and channel it into momentum. Most importantly though, the team must simply believe in themselves.
“Getting that type of experience for a young team like this is priceless, and we must have a real hard week of practice and learn from what we did wrong,” Ortscheid said. “A lot of this week will be getting our minds right and focusing on believing in ourselves.”
The Blugolds will travel to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn. March 2 for the NCAA Div. III West Regional tournament.
“You never know what can happen in regionals: anybody can win and go to nationals,” he said.