EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (blugolds.com) - The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire wrestling program has been awarded an NCAA regional championship for the 2018-19 season.
For the first time in school history, the Blugolds will be one of six teams to host a regional that will determine 30 wrestlers that advance to the NCAA Division III National Championship tournament which will be hosted by Ferrum College in Roanoke, Virginia, March 8-9, 2019.
The Upper Midwest Regional, which has been hosted for many years by Augsburg College, will be staged Friday and Saturday, February 22 and 23 in the McPhee Center on the university's upper campus. The regional will involve 17 teams and the top three finishers in each of the 10 weight classes will advance to the nationals. Last year, the Blugolds advanced three wrestlers to the National Championships, the most in school history.
The designation of Eau Claire as a regional host is one of several changes to the Blugold wrestling schedule which was originally announced in May, according to fourth-year head coach Tim Fader who was ecstatic with UWEC's regional selection. Another change was the cancellation of St. Olaf College as the Blugolds' home opener November 2. Instead, the Blugolds will make their home debut against perennial Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) power UW-Whitewater in a dual meet set for Zorn Arena on Wednesday, December 5. That meet has been designated as Student Appreciation Night and Team Night and there will be a tuition check giveaway sponsored by the Pin Pool, the wrestling team's booster club.
The second of four home dual meets will take place Friday, December 7 against UW-Platteville in a contest designated as Faculty-Staff and Military Appreciation Night. Each Blugold wrestler will invite one of his instructors to be recognized at the meet. All military personnel will be admitted to the meet free of charge and recognized at intermission.
The third home meet on Saturday, January 19 will be against defending NCAA Division III national runner-up Augsburg. That competition has been designated as Seniors' Night and Parents' Night.
The Blugolds' entire schedule during the month of February will take place at home in the McPhee Center. The Blugolds will host St. John's University February 1 in a Youth Night dual that will culminate a day that will spotlight local middle and high school competition. Middle schoolers will wrestle in a tournament to determine the All-City championship. That will be followed by high school dual meets featuring North and Memorial high schools.
February 2 is the date of the Don Parker Blugold Open and Alumni Day. As an open meet started initially as an invite by Blugold Hall of Fame coach Don Parker in 1979, some 200 individuals are expected to compete on six mats in the McPhee gymnasium. Fader expects a high level of competition since the meet is the final open meet before the start of post-season championships.
The Blugolds will serve as the host for the WIAC championship on Friday, February 8. All returning former conference champions will be recognized prior to the finals that day. This will be the seventh time UWEC has hosted the league championship, having previously been the site in 1976, 1982, 1989, 1998, 2006 and 2013.
Fader indicated that there are a limited number of season tickets still available. In addition to a matside seat for all home regular season matches, the $50 season ticket also includes a Blugold wrestling t-shirt, a box of popcorn for each home date and an invitation to the social following each home match at Dooley's Pub. The WIAC championship and the NCAA regional are not included in the season package and will be ticketed separately.