The revival of Blugold wrestling leads to NCAA debut

Three National Championship qualifiers mark a resurgence of the program

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The revival of Blugold wrestling leads to NCAA debut

A record three Blugold wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio.

A record three Blugold wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo by SUBMITTED

A record three Blugold wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo by SUBMITTED

Photo by SUBMITTED

A record three Blugold wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The UW-Eau Claire wrestling program does not exactly have a rich history. With five different head coaches in a five-year span from 2011-2015 and a lack of success for the past 10 years, Blugold wrestling was in need of a revival, and the time has come.

The rejuvenation comes in the form of three new faces to Eau Claire wrestling: Ramsey Bloy, junior, Seth Vosters, second-year, and Tyler Demo, first-year. All three wrestlers qualified for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III National Championships this past weekend. It was the first time in school history that three Blugolds qualified for the national meet held in Cleveland, Ohio.

Demo said the trio qualifying for the National Championships has raised the bar and set the tone for Blugold wrestling, a program that has lacked esteem.

“Eau Claire has had this view that we’re in a rebuilding phase,” Demo said. “But we kind of pushed that to the side by going to the national tournament and giving our all so that we can put our name on the map.”

After starting the season 0-2, Demo said the season started rough for him but was all uphill after that. The first-year was defeated in both of his matches at the tournament but finished the season with a 24-12 record, eight pinfalls and an NCAA Tournament berth; something he thought was unattainable at the season’s start.

“It’s always a goal to be a national qualifier and champion but I didn’t think that I’d be a national qualifier so early,” Demo said. “Just working hard every day, getting my ass whooped in practice and having a diverse group of teammates definitely prepared me.”

Bloy, who transferred from the University of Cumberlands before the season, became the first regional champion from Eau Claire since 2014 after winning the 197-pound bracket two weeks ago. After splitting his first two matches of the tournament, he suffered an “emotional” loss with a chance to be an All-American.

Winning by one with about 10 seconds left in the match, Bloy surrendered a late escape and takedown to lose his spot on the podium. Despite falling short, the junior finished the season with an impressive 42-7 record, 12 pinfalls and an experience he says he will never forget.

“I had close to 50 matches this season, which is pretty crazy at the collegiate level,” Bloy said. “But, I didn’t really feel worn down towards the end of the season and I feel like my passion for wrestling is stronger than ever coming to Eau Claire.”

Vosters, who joined Bloy in transferring to Eau Claire last fall from Cumberlands, calls his year the “comeback season.” Battling through early season losses and injuries after thinking he would come in and dominate the whole year made for a year he can be proud of, Vosters said.

At 157-pounds, Vosters lost both of his tournament matches despite a comeback effort to force overtime in his second match after trailing 11-4. The second-year ended his first season as a Blugold with a record of 19-11 and three pins. Vosters was also named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division III All-Academic Team, one of only 189 wrestlers across the country.

“It kind of sucked how we ended,” Vosters said. “We didn’t reach our ultimate goal but it feels good knowing we made some big strides.”

Perhaps the biggest reason for the recent success of Blugold wrestling, besides the hard work and talent of this trio, is Head Coach Tim Fader. Vosters said Fader took a different approach to working hard, one that makes it fun and easy to do so.

“I really enjoy wrestling for him,” Vosters said. “He keeps it big picture, like saying wrestling is not everything but it’s also a very fun thing to be good at.”

Demo remembers Fader sitting down with him after a practice on their Pennsylvania trip earlier in the season. Fader suggested Demo drop down his weight class to the 133-pound class, a move Demo told the coaches all season long he would not do. Demo says the conversation made him really ponder the change and is a NCAA qualifier because of it.

This young collection of talent who Fader calls “workers” has the coaching staff very excited for the future.

“This is a very special group,” Fader said. “This trio was the heart of our team and probably one of the best recruiting classes I have ever recruited.” That is pretty high praise from someone who has coached 43 All-Americans throughout his career.

With the team’s best record in dual meets since 2008, Blugold wrestling has turned the corner once again.

“We’re not satisfied, we’re just moving forward,” Vosters said. “I’m really excited for next year already.”

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