CONCORDIA, Kansas — Cloud County Community College redshirt freshman Austin Eldredge has already etched his name into the school history books during his time in Concordia.
On Thursday, it was his turn to sign on the dotted line as Eldredge signed his National Letter of Intent to continue his wrestling career at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a NCAA Division II program in the MIAA.
The McPherson, Kansas product was drawing interest from NCAA Division I and NCAA Division II institutions following a redshirt freshman season that saw Eldredge go 26-3 overall and finish fourth in the 149-pound division at the NJCAA Wrestling Championships.
He'll now join a local NCAA Division II powerhouse in the Lopers, who are coming off of a 2018-19 season where they won the NCAA Super Region VI Championships and finished fifth as a team at the NCAA Division II Championships.
"I felt like I really connected with the coaches and UNK is an established program," said Eldredge about his decision to head to Kearney. "The more I talked with the coaching staff, the more I thought our goals aligned. They want to win a National Championship and that's my goal too."
Eldredge said it is undetermined whether he will remain at 149-pounds or move up to 157-pounds next season, but that he would be able to provide that lineup flexibility.
After missing his freshman season due to a knee injury, Eldredge shined his second year on campus.
He became Cloud County's first West-Central District Champion in the program's second year of existence, and he joined sophomore Noah Aziere as Cloud County's first two NJCAA All-Americans.
"Those moments will always be special to look back on," Eldredge said. "But it's the memories of the fun I had with my teammates, the road trips and the work in the practice room, that will always stick with me."
Eldredge is the second wrestler that the Cloud County wrestling program has placed at a four-year institution joining Ryan Delforge, who transferred on to Ottawa University.
"It's a huge step for us as a program. Nebraska-Kearney is a powerhouse and I think a lot of people forget the fact that there isn't a "major leagues" of wrestling," said Cloud County head coach, Cody Cole. "The NCAA Division II level is a very big deal when it comes to placing kids, let alone at a perennial top-5 program. It's going to be an excellent place for Austin to go and continue to grow."
Cole added that he believes Eldredge has the talent and capabilities for his national success at the NJCAA level to translate well as a member of the UNK lineup.
"Austin and I have talked about it all year long to make sure he is scoring on his feet, getting that first takedown and putting guys away," Cole said. "He's excellent when he's on top or on bottom of tilting guys or getting away. Getting that takedown and getting going on top is what's going to really help him when he competes at the next level. I think he's definitely capable of doing that."