UWEC wrestling goes to NCAA Tournament

Blugold wrestling takes a team record of 5 wrestlers to NCAA, where Blugold Chase Schmidt makes All American

Kiara Jackson

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Photo by Sam Melton

NCAA wrestling qualifiers Tyler Fleetwood, Chase Schmidt, Jared Stricker, Zach Sato, and Jake Drexler with teammates at national tournament.

This past weekend, UW-Eau Claire wrestling team took five Blugold wrestlers to compete at the NCAA Division III National Tournament, where fourth-year Chase Schmidt earned third in the 165lbs. weight class.

Earning third place in his weight class not only gained Schmidt a national placement but also earned him All-American honors status.

According to fellow teammate and national qualifier, fourth-year Jake Drexler, Schmidt’s teammates are all very proud of his accomplishments at nationals. Drexler said that he even looks up to Schmidt and is glad of the friendship they’ve formed before they both graduate. 

“Throughout the years I really saw him develop as a wrestler,” Drexler said. “He’s one of the hardest workers in the room and I look up to him in that aspect. He’s a great team leader and a friend.” 

Drexler said Schmidt’s placement at the tournament reflected all of Schmidt’s hard work over the years.

Tim Fader, the team’s head coach,  was extremely proud of his team and satisfied with Schmidt’s success at the NCAA tournament. 

“Chase Schmidt had a heck of a day,” Fader said. “He wrestled all the way back to third place and along the way defeated a guy who had beat him earlier in the day on the championship side.”

Fader said that the national tournament started with a rough start but improved as the tournament progressed. 

“We had a really good day on Saturday and a rougher day on Friday,” Fader said. “We didn’t qualify four of our guys through to the second day.” 

While four of the wrestlers may not have qualified for All-American status, Fader felt that they still represented UW- eau Claire wrestling well, both at nationals and all through their wrestling season.

“We set records all along the way and this was one of the best groups that I’ve ever had a chance to work with,” Fader said. “It was really enjoyable and it’s just an impressive run for our guys all the way to the national tournament.” 

While Fader said he was impressed with the run the team had, first-year Zach Sato said he is already looking towards what is next to come for his wrestling career and that the national experience was one that he greatly appreciated and would be using in his future of wrestling. 

“I don’t really consider it a whole week of loss,” Sato said. “I feel like I gained a lot of experience in the national front this year and it will allow me to just sort of have goals for next year and stay hungry for the rest of my career.” 

While Sato said he is hungry for what’s to come in his next few years, Drexler said he is proud of the improvement that the team has had over the past few years and happy to have gotten to be a part of it in his last year. 

“I just think this weekend was an awesome experience all around, for myself personally, for the entire team, and everybody involved,” Drexler said. “To see how far this team has grown and developed over this past four years is just really awesome to be a part of.”

Both Drexler and Schmidt are finishing out their last year this season, making the NCAA competition their very last collegiate wrestling tournament. 

With high hopes from the wrestlers and Coach Fader, the team said they are proud of what they accomplished this year and ready to see where next season will take them.  

Jackson can be reached at [email protected].