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UNK wrestler aiming for gold in final season with Lopers

Austin Eldredge won his first match of the 2022 season by tech fall over Chadron State’s Rowdy Pfeil, 17-2 at 3:30. Photo provided by Kolton Maturey / Antelope Staff

Since fourth grade, wrestling has been a staple in Austin Eldredge’s life. While his skills and size took time to develop, the redshirt senior has found his dominance while at UNK.

Prior to joining the Lopers, Eldredge spent two years at Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas, where he wrestled at 149 pounds. Now in a much heavier weight class, he is among the best in Division II. 

“He redshirted that first year with us and just kind of really put on size and ended up filling a spot where the team needed it in that 2020-2021 season,” said UNK coach Dalton Jensen. “He ended up being a 184-pounder and an All-American and then last year ended up dropping down to 174 and repeated as an All-American.”

In the two different weight classes, Eldredge finished fourth at nationals in consecutive years, posting a 16-3 record in 2020-21 and going 26-6 in 2021-22, while also being the Super Region VI champion. 

In high school, Eldredge won a Class 4A state title in Kansas at 145 pounds in 2017. He also earned a fourth place finish at the NJCAA National Championships while at Cloud County in 2018-19. 

After setting a state record for the most technical falls in a career with 50 at McPherson High School, Eldredge’s dominance has carried over. He was the Division II leader in tech falls last year, with 16 in 51:49. 

“Even though I didn’t have the best coaching maybe in high school or at the junior college level, I always tried to work hard and kind of take control of the things I can control,” Eldredge said. “I think this has helped me to kind of figure things out and get from the bottom to the top of each level I wrestled at. It’s exciting, and I have a lot of people to thank for that.”

Even at UNK, one of the most successful wrestling programs in Division II, not many have been able to match Eldredge’s top wrestling.

“His ability to turn guys on top is unmatched like anything I’ve ever seen from anyone within our program as long as I’ve been coaching,” Jensen said. “He’s doing this in three or four minutes, which is really incredible. Even for guys he trains with that are in the room every day with him, they still can’t match him and figure his strength and skill out. He can be a pretty frustrating guy to wrestle, but he has yet to turn me.”

While Eldredge has one year of eligibility remaining, he plans to end his UNK wrestling career after this season. The exercise science major is excited to take the next steps in his life, but not before capping off his wrestling journey in a big way.

“This year I want to hopefully get to the title and become a national champion,” Eldredge said. “I want to do it in good fashion, dominate a lot of my opponents and just have a lot of fun in my last year. I’m getting old and I have to be an adult someday, so it’s probably good for me to hopefully wrap things up with a national title and a team title again to send it off the right way.”

Eldredge has grown both on and off the mats since coming to UNK. While his impact on the Lopers has been evident, the team has also made an impact on him.

“I just love my teammates and my coaches,” Eldredge said. “I had a lot of highs and lows, but I just had a lot of fun with them. All those memories are kind of priceless to me, so I’m very thankful for everything UNK wrestling has given me.”

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KEVIN BURD, Sports Edior
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