Veteran and new-comer to compete at National Wrestling Championship this weekend

Nathaniel Behnke makes his third national meet appearance and is joined by first-year success story, Roy Munroe

More stories from John Mattison


Seniors Nathaniel Behnke and Roy Munroe will represent the Blugolds at the National Wrestling Championship this weekend.

The story behind Roy Munroe’s success this season might seem far-fetched to many. However, to Munroe, it was expected.

After taking four years off wrestling, Munroe decided to go out for the team for his fifth and final year at UW-Eau Claire. Not only did he go out for the team, he is now preparing to compete in the 2016 NCAA Division III Championships this upcoming weekend.

A large part of Munroe’s decision to join the team is due to his former roommate and practice partner, Nathaniel Behnke, who is wrestling in his third national tournament in four years.

The first week of the semester gave Munroe a lot more to think about than just getting accustomed to his classes. As he was working out in the McPhee weight room, the weight room manager informed him the new wrestling coach wanted to talk with him.

Before walking into coach Tim Fader’s office, Munroe was just a student. But when he left Fader’s office, he was a part of the wrestling team.

After not wrestling since high school, Munroe didn’t know what to expect making the return to the sport he’s been involved since he was two years old, he said.

“I didn’t want to wrestle just to pass the time in my last year of school,” Munroe said. “I knew that if I were to join the team, I would give it my all. I set a goal of getting as far as I can this year, and I think I’ve done that.”

Behnke started the season setting goals for himself as well, he said.

“Having one of the best coaches in the nation has been such a luxury for our team,” Behnke said. “Setting goals at the beginning of the year and having someone like (Fader) do everything he can to help me achieve them has motivated me the entire year.”

In addition to having a coach who believes in his team, seniors Behnke and Munroe have each other along with the rest of their teammates.

The friendships Behnke has made through wrestling over his four years at Eau Claire have been a blessing, he said.

“Being practice partners with Roy has been great,” Behnke said. “We know when we are having good or bad days, which helps us push and motivate each other.”

Behnke’s collegiate wrestling resume is extensive. As a freshman, he was an All-American after placing in the top eight at the national meet. In addition to being an All-American, he is the Blugolds’ all-time wins leader and boasts a 21-2 record this season.

However, he has also experienced what it feels like to come up short, he said.

“I have gotten the opportunity to learn from both of my prior national meet experiences,” Behnke said. “Not placing as an All-American my sophomore year was really tough on me, and I don’t want that feeling again.”

Behnke will use his prior experiences as motivation to continue along his historic season of only two individual losses, he said. On the other hand, Munroe is still in his first collegiate wrestling season, yet will still make his first national meet appearance.

Munroe had to go through the transition phase as he became accustomed with wrestling again after taking four years off.

Munroe said Behnke pushes him in ways few others have in his athletic career. The two know how to motivate each other and are aware of the goals they set out for themselves since the beginning of the year.

“Being paired up with a competitor like Nathan every day at practice has enabled me to be at my best every meet,” Munroe said. “Nathan has a good shot at winning it all this year and having the chance to practice against a potential national champion every day has been huge.”

Behnke and Munroe both took second place in regionals in their weight class, which has qualified them to advance to the national meet. The two practice partners will look to continue their winning streaks on March 11 as they travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I couldn’t ask for a better guy to go to Nationals with,” Behnke said. “Come Friday and Saturday our minds will be right and we will be ready to fight.”