Eicher won at 133 - and three other Huskies will join him at NCAAs.
Having fostered a steady growth in the success of the NIU wrestling program since taking over as head coach, Ryan Ludwig enters his sixth season at the helm of the Huskies in 2016-17.
Ludwig's team produced its best postseason in many years in March 2016, with four Huskies qualifying for the NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where Shawn Scott advanced to the Round of 12 at 197 pounds. NIU's four national qualifiers, its most since 2007, was a direct result of the success achieved at the MAC Championships, where 133-pound freshman Austin Eicher was crowned as NIU's first MAC Champion under Coach Ludwig, while three other Huskies -- Steve Bleise, Andrew Morse and Shawn Scott -- finished third to automatically advance to NCAAs. NIU finished the 2016 MAC Championships in sixth with 65 team points, its highest total since 2004.
The former Huskie assistant led NIU to a 10-12 dual record in 2014-15 and 2-6 in the MAC with wins over Eastern Michigan and Buffalo. Ludwig also extended the Huskies' streak of NCAA Championship appearances to 44 years, as Shawn Scott made an appearance at the national tournament at 197 pounds after taking fourth at the MAC Championships. As a team, NIU put five wrestlers on the podium at the conference tournament.
Ludwig guided the Huskies to a 7-11 dual record in 2013-14. In addition, he also helped NIU make its 43rd-straight appearance at the NCAA Championships, as Nick Smith (133) and Rob Jillard (149) both advanced to Oklahoma City. At the MAC Championships, the Huskies landed five wrestlers on the podium, including a third-place finish from Shawn Scott at 197 pounds.
In 2012-13, Ludwig helped guide the Huskies to a 10-8 dual record, marking the first time since 2005-06 that the team notched double-digit dual wins in a single season. NIU also notched their 500th dual win in program history during the year, along with knocking off a Big Ten opponent (Indiana) for the first time since Dec. 3, 2009. The Huskies sent Matt Mougin to the NCAA Championships. Wrestling in his home state, Mougin came out as one of the tournament's big surprises by advancing to the final 12.
In his first season at the helm, Ludwig's Huskies recorded eight dual wins in 2011-12 - the most for the program since the 2007-08 campaign. The team also extended their streak of NCAA tournament appearances to 41 years when senior Brad Dieckhaus and redshirt sophomore Kevin Fanta both earned bids to St. Louis. Off the mat, the team won the men's Victors Cup competition for the second consecutive season for academic excellence, community service, and competitive achievement.
Ludwig came to NIU back in 2005, spending his first six seasons on Dave Grant's staff, serving as associate head coach for the last two years. As an assistant for the Huskies, he helped train 15 NCAA qualifiers, seven Mid-American Conference champions, most recently 2011 MAC Champion Brad Dieckhaus at 184 pounds, and one Midlands Tournament champion.
A native of Chelsea, Mich., Ludwig has been a driving force in bringing top talent to NIU. Year in and year out, Northern Illinois' recruiting classes have been ranked among the best in the nation. The 2007 recruiting class was rated as high as 20th nationally, while the 2008 class boasted an outstanding blend of in-state and national talent featuring six high school All-Americans, 10 state champions and one Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winner. His initial recruiting effort brought athletes with outstanding credentials to DeKalb as well. The 2006 recruiting class included four high school All-Americans. In 2007, the newcomers recruited by the coaching staff combined for six state titles, and included four All-Americans.
More recently, Ludwig's recruiting as head coach has resulted in natives from his home state of Michigan such as Shawn Scott, Steve Bleise, Austin Eicher and Andrew Morse reaching the podium at the MAC Championships and qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
Ludwig came to Northern Illinois after two seasons as an assistant at Minnesota State University-Mankato. While coaching the Mavericks, Ludwig helped guide the team to a third-place finish in the NCAA Division II Championships. He also helped produce and train eight All-Americans at MSU-Mankato. Prior to his work with the Mavericks, Ludwig served as an assistant wrestling coach for his alma mater, the University of Findlay, where he coached seven All-Americans and a national champion in 2002-03.
As a wrestler, Ludwig was a three-time NAIA All-American and a national finalist at 157 pounds. Elected a captain by his teammates, he was also voted Most Valuable Wrestler when the Roughnecks were NAIA national runners-up in 1999. Ludwig ranks third on Findlay's all-time win list with over 100 career victories. In high school, Ludwig was a Michigan state champion at 142 pounds in 1995.
Ludwig earned a bachelor of arts degree in 2000 from Findlay as a double major in psychology and criminal justice.