Chase Bittle knows wrestling can’t last forever.
So when the Althoff senior and two-time Class 1A state champion decided he would attend North Dakota State University, academics were a priority.
“Whenever I was trying to narrow down what college I wanted to attend, obviously I wanted to go to a good school for wrestling. But not only wrestling, I wanted to get a good education while I’m there as well,” said Bittle, who will major in engineering.
“Realistically, in wrestling there isn’t a pro level after college. There’s only so much you can do. You have to have a good job and a good degree so you can find a job and make a living off it.”
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Bittle made an NCAA-paid visit to North Dakota State, located in Fargo, two weekends ago.
“The biggest thing was they have a solid engineering program and I felt like I bonded well with the team,” Bittle said. “I felt like the coaching staff and their athletic complexes were what could help take me to the next level to be successful in my college career.”
Bittle, the son of Marty and Missy Bittle, of Belleville, will redshirt as a freshman with designs on breaking into the Bison lineup the following season. North Dakota State was 14-5 in dual meets last season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament at Scottrade Center last March in St. Louis.
“They’re a Big 12 team, so they’re competing in one of the best conferences year in and year out,” Chase Bittle said. “They have one of the toughest schedules in the country. They’re always wrestling the best teams. There’s not a better way to get better than to wrestle the best kids in the country.”
Bittle’s state titles came as a sophomore at 120 pounds and as a junior at 126 pounds. He lost in the title match as a freshman at 113 pounds.
Bittle’s career record is 139-2 with 110 pins. He needs just 22 pins this season to break the state record currently held by Lombard Montini’s Garrett Goebel, who had 131 falls between 2004 and 2008.
“I’m definitely a pinner,” said Bittle, adding that the state record in that department has “definitely been one of my goals throughout high school.”
Bittle, who plans on wrestling at 126 pounds again this season, will attempt to become Althoff’s first three-time state champion. Mike Greenfield also won two state titles in 1994 and 1995.
“The goal is to go out and win my third state title,” said Bittle, a high-honor roll student. “Coming into high school, the dream was to be a four-time state champion. Whether I thought that was reachable or not, that was the goal. Going out there and getting in the state-finals match my freshman year was a reality check, like, ‘Wow, this can actually happen.’
“That match didn’t go the way I wanted, so the next-best thing was to be a three-time state champion. That’s what I’ve worked for and what I want to achieve.”
Bittle last season became the first wrestler in state-tournament history to pin all four of his opponents in the first period.
“At state, you really don’t want to waste any time,” Bittle said. “If there’s an opening and you can pin your opponent, you want to do that. You don’t want to waste time on the mat. You’re going to have more matches, so you want to be as rested as much as possible for the next match.”
Despite his success, Bittle said there’s always room for improvement.
“For me, it’s about getting better wrestling on my feet, on bottom and on top,” Bittle said. “I have to get all three of those areas solid and be more comfortable in all three of those areas. I feel I’ll be able to achieve what I want to this season (if I do that).
“When you’re on top, you can’t just relax and expect to be there again. You have to work just as hard to maintain where you’re at. That’s what I’ve been doing this offseason. I’m just ready to go out and finish my high-school career.”
Bittle was 46-1 last season, 45-0 as a sophomore and 48-1 as a freshman. Dusting off his career with another undefeated record is a personal goal.
“We’ve gotten into a little bit tougher tournaments this season, so it’s going to be a little bit more of a challenging season,” Bittle said. “But I definitely think if I stay focused and wrestle how I should wrestle — and not let other kids dictate the matches and how they go this season — it’s definitely something I can achieve.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm