Eckhardt signs to wrestle
Wednesday afternoon everyone gathered in the wrestling room at Blue Earth Area High School was smiling:
Mom, dad, friends, activities director Rob Norman and head wrestling coach Randy Wirtjes.
Senior Daniel Eckhardt was signing a letter of intent to wrestle at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
“This has been quite a year. Daniel is the fifth Blue Earth Area athlete to sign to compete at the collegiate level,” Norman proudly told the onlookers.
Daniel also was smiling.
Besides getting a college education, he’s been given the opportunity to continue a sport he has been competing in since kindergarten.
“I thought I was done. After the season I gave it some time and realized I’d be lost if I didn’t wrestle,”says Daniel.
In a way, he’s been given a second chance; his successful high school career had a bitter ending.
At the State Meet in March, Daniel was eliminated after suffering a 2-1 triple overtime loss in his opening 171-pound match.
“That was really disappointing. I wanted to do better. Maybe I will in college,” Daniel says.
It isn’t that Daniel has anything to prove on the wrestling mat. At least not to Buc fans.
The six-year varsity letterwinner finished his senior season with a 33-6 record and topped the 30-win mark for the second straight year.
Also, his 126 career wins put him eighth on the Buccaneer all-time win list.
Despite his accomplishments, Eckhardt remains humble, giving credit to his parents, Joe and Sheryl; coaches, Wirtjes, Dave Pfaffinger and Tim Blagg; and teammates for their support.
Coach Wirtjes isn’t too surprised Eckhardt will be wrestling at the collegiate level. After all, this year he received the Iron Man for his work ethic and dedication.
For six straight years, Eckhardt hasn’t missed a practice and has had perfect attendance at morning conditioning held three days a week before the start of school.
“Daniel is one of the hardest working wrestlers I’ve coached,” says Wirtjes. “He is very deserving of everything he gets.”
Daniel’s parents spoke with pride as they reflected on their son’s wrestling career.
Sheryl recalls the many tournaments they have attended to watch their son and the wrestling camps he has gone to.
“The Blue Earth wrestling program is known for its intensity and conditioning. I think it has prepared him for the next level,” says Sheryl.
Joe says Southwest State is “a good fit” for his son because he’s interested in an agriculture-related career.
“It was a big decision for him. It really boiled down to the type of degree he wants to obtain,” says Joe.
Eckhardt says he’s not sure if he’ll be redshirted his freshman year or at what weight he’ll wrestle.
But, when he does hit the mat Buc fans will get a chance to see him when his team — the Mustangs — takes on the Minnesota State University Mavericks in Mankato.
Listening to the Eckhardts talk it’s clear they’re excited of what the future holds for their son. Especially Sheryl, because it means having to do some shopping.
“Next time we go back to Southwest State we’re going to have to buy a lot of Mustang clothing,” she says.
If statistics are any indication of how a person will perform, Daniel will do just fine on the mat. And, with a 3.5 G.P.A. he will be a success in the classroom, too — where it really matters.