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The Antelope

Eldredge wins national title; Lopers finish eighth

Austin Eldredge picks up Abner Romero of St. Cloud State in the championship match. – Photo by Zach Lefebure

Austin Eldredge had come up short the last two years at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships losing in the semifinals both years.

This year was different.

The redshirt senior had two takedowns and six near fall-points to beat Abner Romero of St. Cloud State 12-4 in the championship match.

“It’s a complete 180 from last year. I was so nervous last year going in and I was the favorite,” said an out-of-breath Eldredge in an interview after the match. “You know, barely winning and going to the semis and freaking out and losing in overtime to now just putting up a ton of points and dominating. It’s so awesome.”

Romero was undefeated coming into the match. Eldredge finished the year with a record of 26-4.

Eldredge dominated all of his matches at this weekend’s championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He won the first two rounds with 16-0 tech falls and then won with a 15-4 major decision in the semifinals against James Penfold of Lake Erie College. He scored 24 team points for the Lopers.

“I’m just so happy,” Eldredge said. “I’m elated. It’s been a lot of hard work. This was probably my last match and I’m so happy to finish it in the best way possible.”

Two other Lopers also earned All-American honors. 

Lee Herrington won the seventh-place match over Jake Swirple of Minot State. Herrington got a takedown early in the match and never let go of the lead, winning 3-2. The redshirt senior finished the year with a record of 27-6. 

Billy Higgins finished in sixth place at 184 lbs. Higgins lost in the semifinals to Logan Hall of Lander University 3-2. He then lost by fall in the consolation semifinals and medically forfeited in the fifth-place match. 

Higgins was named MIAA co-wrestler of the year earlier in the week and came into the National Championships as the No. 1 overall seed at 184 lbs. He finished the year with a record of 26-4.

Nick James went 2-2 at 141 lbs. and scored four team points for the Lopers. John Burger and Kaden Hart both went 0-2.

UNK finished with 43 team points which put them in eighth place overall. Central Oklahoma ran away with the championship trophy scoring 121 points. Lander finished in second with 78 points. This was UNK’s 21st straight year finishing in the top eight.

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