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Wisconsin Badgers wrestler Eli Stickley dies in Illinois car crash

Wisconsin Badgers wrestler Eli Stickley dies in Illinois car crash

The University of Wisconsin wrestling team spent Friday processing the shock of losing one of its own.

Eli Stickley, who was about to enter his redshirt junior season with the Badgers, died in a car crash Thursday night in Illinois.

Stickley, 21, was driving a 2004 black Nissan Frontier that left the roadway on westbound Interstate 74 in Henry County at 8:19 p.m. Thursday, according to the Illinois State Police.

After the vehicle went into the right-hand ditch, it overcorrected and rolled across westbound lanes of traffic, the state police said, ending up on the passenger side in the passing lane.

Stickley and a passenger were transported to Illini Hospital in Silvis, Illinois, according to the Rock Island Dispatch-Argus, where Stickley was pronounced dead. No update was available on the passenger, who has not been identified by police.

Stickley joined the Badgers in 2015, wrestling unattached and taking a redshirt in his first season.

Wrestling at 141 pounds in 2017-18, he automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships by finishing sixth at the Big Ten Conference tournament.

Stickley had a 21-14 record last season, his second in competition for UW.

"The world lost a really good kid," said Badgers coach Chris Bono, who took over the program in March.

When Bono made calls Thursday night to let his players know the news, he asked one whether there were any teammates with whom Stickley was especially close that needed extra help in the aftermath.

"He said, 'Coach, I don't think there was one guy on the team that ever had one problem with this guy,'" Bono said. "That's the kind of kid he was."

From Urbana, Ohio, Stickley was an Ohio Division II state champion at 120 pounds in 2014 with a 50-3 record.

Stickley's family has a long history with Badgers wrestling. His uncle, Jim Jordan, won NCAA championships in 1985 and 1986 and was a three-time All-American. He now represents Ohio's 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Another uncle, Jeff Jordan, wrestled for UW from 1983 to 1986.

Stickley's cousin, Isaac Jordan, competed for UW from 2012 to 2017.

UW Athletics arranged for counselors to be available to student-athletes Friday morning when the wrestling team got together to mourn Stickley's death.

The team is on break and wasn't due to return to Madison until next week, Bono said.

"I think that's when it'll really hit home, when everybody's together," he said.

Bono continued: "Eli was great, man. There was not one single thing you could say that was bad about this guy in the three months that I was with him. We just had camp a couple weeks ago. I got to spend 24 hours a day with him at camp, being in the dorms with him. He's a great, great, great person."

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