Triad wrestler Cole Witzig signs with North Dakota State

The son of a wrestler and a wrestling coach, Triad senior Cole Witzig will be strapping on the headgear for at least five more years.

A two-time Class 2A State Wrestling Tournament placewinner and one of the top grapplers in southern Illinois, Witzig has signed an NCAA Division I scholarship offer to attend the North Dakota State University beginning in the 2016-17 season.

The Class 2A 170-pound state tournament runner-up a year ago after placing third in the 160-pound weight division as a sophomore, Witzig said he chose North Dakota State over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and McKendree University. The Fargo-based university competes in the Big 12 Conference in wrestling and was ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA Division I preseason poll that was released last week.

Witzig said both McKendree and SIUE have good programs, but having the opportunity to compete in one of the premier wrestling conferences in the nation was two much to turn down.

“Yes I know its a long way from home and it gets very cold up there in the winter,” Witzig said smiling. “I’ll miss home and when I made my two visits it was in the summer so it was warm. But I hear it gets very cold.

“But honestly, North Dakota State, it just seemed right. I liked the coaches and I met and liked the wrestlers on the team. I’m going to redshirt my freshman year so I’ll have that year to get adjusted and hopefully wrestle in some open tournaments. I’m excited about the future.”

Witzig is following in his dad’s footsteps. His father is Triad wrestling coach Russ Witzig, who was an all-American at SIUE in the 1980’s.

“I’m proud of him because he’s my son. It’s a long way from home, but ever since he was little it’s always been his dream to wrestle at a NCAA Division I program. It will be a lot of work, but he wants to go for it,” Russ Witzig said. “It’s not about me. He has to go where he feels he’ll be happy. The one thing I told him was that I expect him to stay there (North Dakota State) and that I expect him to get his college degree. He told me he will.”

Cole Witzig plans to wrestle at either the 174 or 184 pound weight class at the college level. He enters his senior season at Triad next week looking to start the season at 182 pounds and hopefully drop down to 170 for the state tournament in February.

Witzig is perhaps the metro-east area’s top Class 2A matman with a chance to win a state title this year. Now he can concentrate on doing just that.

“It’s a load off my shoulders to have the decision made up. Talking to college coaches every night was starting to get old. Now I concentrate on my classes, wrestling and enjoying my senior year of high school,” Witzig said.

What does Witzig need to impove on?

“How do I need to improve? I need to get better in every phase of wrestling and I’ve got to get stronger,” Witzig said. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

Witzig said he plans to major in education or psychology at North Dakota State.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean